High School of the Future – An Example of Sustainable Design and Engineering



Recently, a team of four students from Inglemoor High School in Kenmore, Washington took first place in the High School of the Future design competition. Open to all high school students, this annual competition challenges teams to design the ideal school of the future that is sustainable and eco-friendly, while utilizing the best and latest in design techniques and technology.

The winning team sought to design a net-zero school—one that produces as much energy as it consumes. Key to their approach was the selection of a site abundant in natural resources that could be harnessed for renewable energy, as well as the use of a variety of lesser-known energy-saving practices and techniques.

Project Title: 
Team SLIDE High School
Project Designers: 
Hayley G. Baquian, Diana Duga, Sabrina G. McMahon, Kylie Poon
Project Date: 
Apr 2015



Project Goals

The students chose to participate in the High School of the Future design competition as the capstone project for Sustainable Engineering and Design, a class taught by dedicated teacher Mike Wierusz. As a prompt for the capstone project, Wierusz chose "how might we support sustainable development.” 

With a focus on designing for a better world, the competition required the team to create a curriculum, a culture, and a sustainable design for their school of the future, which they called SLIDE—short for Service, Learning, Inspired, Doing, and Entrepreneurship. To satisfy the sustainability requirements, the students sought to create a design that would most effectively “harness the climate and atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest.” Some of their specific goals included designing a net-zero-energy building, conserving resources, and taking advantage of local natural resources.

The Process

The design process incorporated principles they learned in their class, Sustainable Engineering and Design. In this class, Mr. Wierusz offered his students a learning environment that enabled them to utilize advanced analysis and design techniques, including resources such as the Autodesk® Building Performance Analysis Certificate (BPAC) program, a component of the Autodesk® Sustainability Workshop. In preparation for the capstone project, each team member began the BPAC program, with the goal of applying some of the lessons learned to their design. 

Finding a site: The team looked for a site that featured an abundance of natural resources that their school of the future could harness. In their search, they considered solar position, wind patterns, temperature, and other environmental conditions. Ultimately, the team chose a site optimized for passive and renewable energy solutions. It was also adjacent to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) facility. NOAA’s mission includes predicting changes in the climate, conserving and managing coastal and marine ecosystems and resources, and sharing that information with others—making it an ideal partner in creating a culture of learning at SLIDE. 


Design Development: Once they had selected the site, the students began the formal design process, allowing the site to dictate building placement and development of the functional design. During architectural design development, the students had access to a laptop running Autodesk® Revit building design software and guidance from Philip Riedel, an architect from Seattle-based NAC Architecture and an expert in school design. As an early part of the project, the students spent a day at Riedel’s office learning about Revit and how to apply it to real-world applications. 

To determine the amount of renewable energy that the future school would need to harness, the students took advantage of knowledge gained in two courses within the BPAC program: Energy Literacy & Building Loads and Whole Building Energy Analysis.

“The BPAC Building Energy and Thermal Loads unit helped me to calculate the energy use intensity—or EUI—of our building, so we knew how many solar panels, wind turbines, and other energy generating device we needed to install,” says student Kyle Poon. “Incorporating energy saving techniques, such as triple-glazed windows, and considering the optimum time frame students occupy the building can reduce internal loads and reduce artificial lighting. These techniques are less known, generally, and made us stand out from other competitors.”

The ability to perform thorough analysis in the design stage enabled the team to determine how much energy the building would require and where they could save energy through altering the design.

Choosing Building Materials: Another important goal of the design process was to identify ways to make the future school as healthy an environment as possible for the students and teachers. For example, when possible the students tried to use green building materials that were non-toxic, recycled, reused, and locally sourced. Used in combination with a controlled ventilation system, these materials would enhance indoor air quality within the school. In many cases, the students chose concrete because it is easy to source locally and clean, while producing no off gassing. 

The Design

The final design documents incorporated clean energy systems that would create more energy than necessary to sustain the school on a daily basis. In particular, the final design incorporated a mix of passive design strategies and clean energy systems. 

The students oriented the narrow building’s long axis southward, adding numerous windows and skylights to maximize natural lighting. They also included a variety of renewable energy technologies, including solar panels and geothermal heat pumps, which act as a heat sink in the summer and a heat pump in the winter, while consuming 25 percent less electricity than conventional heating. Wind turbines capture the wind off nearby Lake Washington. Finally, the team included kinetic flooring to harness the energy from the students’ footsteps. 

Other environmentally friendly technologies included a rainwater harvesting system and a green wall that recycled all gray water produced in the school. Finally, the new school would include monitors displaying real-time building energy usage, helping the future students to better understand how their everyday activities can contribute to energy consumption and how renewable energy can be harnessed to offset their impact on the environment.

“If we do not take the time to learn the environmental impacts of unsustainable buildings today, we will surely see the effects of them tomorrow,” says student Haley Baquian. “This program provides a great opportunity to immerse oneself into the concepts of sustainability in order to create a more positive impact on the world. Although I personally viewed this content in relation to the design of buildings, it isn't limited to that. Rather, it causes you to rethink the impacts of everything you see and do.” 


About the Teacher

Mike Wierusz teaches Sustainable Engineering and Design at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore, Washington. He was recently named an Allen Distinguished Educator by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. Before earning a Master’s degree in education and beginning a career in teaching, Mr. Wierusz worked as a mechanical engineer in both the public and private sectors. He applies his real-world experience to develop educational experiences that expose his students to systems thinking, human-centered design, 21st-century skills, and sustainable development. He has an affinity for design that connects humans to nature. To meet Mike, click here.


About the Designers

The SLIDE team has an interest in architecture and marketing and at least one of the team members, Haley Baquian, is currently pursuing architecture at university. All of the design team members have graduated from high school and advanced to higher education. They will continue to use the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop and plan to complete the BPAC certification program.


About the Mentor

Philip Riedel is a Principal Architect at NAC Architecture. He is heavily involved with the Council of Education Facilities Planners and is Co-Chair of NAC’s Sustainability Community of Practice. Architects at NAC engage in “pro bono” work with students and educators to educate and share practical knowledge, creating a thriving environment for 21st century learning. Philip met with the designers each week throughout the development of their project and was amazed at their ability to integrate extensive Sustainability Analysis into their design.