SHIRLEY — The recent “Eco-Charrette” at the Ayer-Shirley Regional Middle School brought together members of the school district’s Building Committee; members of Symmes Maini & McKee Associates architecture, engineering and planning team; owner’s project manager Trip Elmore of Dore and Whittier Management Partners; and the public.

The meeting was designed to familiarize and educate the community on the general sustainable design principles and the LEED certification process for the proposed Ayer-Shirley Regional High School renovation.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to set a benchmark for design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

Under LEED, buildings accumulate points for things such as energy-saving and mitigation of storm-water runoff. Once the points are tallied, the building earns a LEED rating. The higher the tally, the more sustainable a building is, and the higher the reimbursement from the Massachusetts State Building Authority.

The need for renovation

At the meeting in the school library, a small but engaged audience listened intently as ASRSD Superintendent Carl Mock explained that the renovation would be a phased-in, occupied construction that would take about two years.

He said the design of the building must be such that the building is safe, accessible, efficient and easy to operate and maintain, and in terms of educational goals, must be flexible.

“The building must increase learning opportunities and prevent the loss of the school’s accreditation, promote the identity and integrity of the high school, and enhance educational excellence in all program areas, with an emphasis on state-of-the-art facilities for science, technology and the arts,” he concluded.

Introduction to sustainability and LEED

SMMA Director of Sustainable Design Martine Dion said both Ayer and Shirley are already under the Massachusetts Green Community Act, “so you have already set the pace for this facility on the energy side.”

She explained that the MSBA’s Green Schools Program aims to encourage a high standard of sustainability for all MSBA-funded projects, providing financial incentive in the form of additional reimbursement of up to two percent of eligible project costs for new and major renovation/addition projects.

If the building design qualifies for the LEED silver level for renovation and the extra two percent in MSBA reimbursement, that would increase the MSBA funding by about $1.1 million, based upon the current projected cost of the project.

Dion said the building team is taking an integrative approach to sustainability, taking into account the building’s indoor air and water quality, indoor environment and quality of renewable energy. Consideration points include cost effectiveness, educational benefits and the long-term environmental impact of the building.

Project overview

SMMA architect Philippe Généreux indicated on a drawing of the proposed building design that two wings of the current structure would be demolished and a new wing added. A new roof would be added to the current courtyard space, which would become the library/media center, and part of the roof would have windows on three sides so that natural light could enter the building.

The current three points of entrance to the building from Washington Street are problematic and dangerous, said Généreux, so the plan is to eliminate two of those and use the safest high point on the street to create an entrance for parent drop-off, plus a bus drop-off near the walkway to the main entrance.

“It is a very compact, efficient plan,” he said, indicating the area of the stacked science room on two floors to the northeast and the commons area by the lobby. The commons area would serve as the foyer, with access to the gymnasium, auditorium and cafeteria.

The auditorium would be located just northwest of the lobby, and to the west of that, the FLLAC Educational Collaborative classrooms.

To the west of the gym would be the cafeteria and custodial areas, as well as an athletic area for alternative physical education that exits to the fields. The mechanical area would exit at the loading and service area.

The science wing would include six classrooms, plus an area for biology and general science, with a preparatory area adjacent to a small greenhouse and a language lab in the center. The biology area would be across the hall from a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mechanical) lab, with two adjacent special-education classrooms.

The library/media center close to the center of the building would include computer labs on one side and a TV studio on the other.

Généreux said the materials used would be simple masonry to tie in with the existing structure for hard surfaces, with lighter material with metal panels upstairs. The design includes skylights on each corner of the large group instruction area so that natural light would enter each corner of the interior corridor of the new wing.

Because LEED awards efficient uses, the more the building is used by the community, the better, Dion added.

Energy efficiency

The building would include high-efficiency lighting, HVAC and energy-management systems, enhanced refrigerant management, daylight dimming and measurement and verification systems.

Dion said the building would also have a good cost-to-benefit ratio for long-term energy savings. The roof, window and wall insulation would be a little more than required by code, for example, due to the need to think about the school in terms of the next 50 years.

“We want to do it right first,” she said. “It’s hard to go back and install more insulation.”

The HVAC system would include controls for ventilation, condensing boilers, energy recovery and an efficiency chiller.

Other features include a high level of storm-water management, a light colored roof membrane to reduce heat, and light pollution reduction so that light does not go offsite. The design also includes preferred parking for low-emitting vehicles that would be closer to the front of the parking area.

Water efficiency measures include reducing potable water use, low-flow fixtures, sensored faucets with aerators, efficient shower heads and the use of native plants to reduce outside water use. There would be no outdoor irrigation.

Indoor environment and sustainable materials

The project plan includes the use of low emitting materials — adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, composite wood and flooring. There is also an indoor air quality-management plan for construction.

The project would accrue points for reusing at least 75 percent of the current building structure, and for a high percentage of recycled content, the use of certified wood and best practices for construction-waste management and recycling.

Ayer resident Laurie Sabol asked about the use of recycling and compost, as well as solar photovoltaics on the roof. Dion replied that a recycling program is a LEED green certification requirement.

“That program will be written and set for glass, plastic, aluminum, paper, cardboard, batteries and light fixtures, at the minimum,” she said. An area large enough for all of the recycled materials and a pick-up area is a part of the design.

Généreux said the design team had spoken with the food services department about the possibility of composting, which could eventually be used in a school garden.

Dion and SMMA Professional Engineer David Pereira said the building is being designed so that it would be photovoltaic-ready for the future, when there is better and more affordable technology for the installation of solar on the building.

Mark Stafford, lead account executive of the Architect and Engineer Program for National Grid, announced that the utility has an incentive program that could help offset some of the higher costs of many energy-efficiency measures.

He added that National Grid could provide an electric recharge station for vehicles, and suggested the addition of a centralized kiosk that measures and displays the building’s energy use. “That is sometimes very educational for projects,” he said.

“The goal is to reuse, compost and recycle. With kids it is ultimately our goal to a large extent,” commented Mock.

“And to educate them so that it becomes their inherent habits,” added Dion.

Moving forward

The planning and design teams will be submitting their plan to the MSBA on Aug. 9; the MSBA will vote on it on Oct. 3. The building committee then has 120 days to bring the project to the community for a vote.

The renovation should break ground within nine months of an affirmative vote, after the construction bidding process has taken place.