The following post was provided by HMFH Architects.

September is here and school is back in session for middle and high school students all across Massachusetts. For students in the town of Saugus, it means setting foot in the new Saugus Middle High School, a 271,000 SF innovation and learning center for 1,360 students. The new school is the first state-funded school project in Massachusetts to achieve the coveted honor of LEEDSchools v4 Platinum-level certification. At the time of certification, it was one of only four Platinum LEED-Schools v4 projects worldwide. HMFH and our consultants worked together from the onset of the project with an original target of LEED Silver certification. Through a holistic sustainable design approach and the innovative work of the design team during the documentation portion of the LEED submission, LEED Gold was achieved and surpassed. This encouraged the team and owner to investigate if the project could achieve LEED Platinum without significantly impacting the budget. The result was a successful Platinum level of certification, much higher than originally assumed.

Key sustainability elements in the new school include the following:

ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Saugus Middle High School uses a combined heating and power system known as tri-generation. Generating electricity on-site significantly reduces operational carbon emissions and eliminates emissions associated with regional source generation, while utilizing waste heat for space heating, domestic hot water heating, and space cooling. Continuously running generators improve resiliency by ensuring emergency systems will be operational when they are needed most.

WATER CONSERVATION: Three 30,000-gallon underground cisterns collect water for reuse while rain gardens throughout the school’s parking lots filter stormwater runoff from the site and mitigate heat island effects. Together with the use of low-flow fixtures, these measures reduce the building’s annual water consumption by 45 percent.

AIR QUALITY AND VENTILATION: Located less than 300 feet from a busy six-lane highway, the new facility responds to the challenge of providing optimal air quality with rooftop mechanical air handling units positioned with their intakes facing away from the highway and prevailing winds. This enables displacement ventilation systems to distribute clean air throughout the interior, bringing 20 percent more fresh air into the spaces at low velocity without the typical costs and acoustical distractions associated with conventional mechanical systems.

EQUITY: The new school represents a transformation of Saugus Public Schools to reflect the town’s vision for innovative, equitable facilities. Creating a welcoming, accessible and inclusive environment for all was critical to the success of the design. All gender toilet facilities are conveniently located and used by faculty and students alike. Special education spaces feature tunable LED fixtures, giving teachers the flexibility to adjust light intensity and color temperature to help modulate behavior and respond to light sensitivity. A special classroom on the third floor provides a designated space for medically fragile community members with exceptional views and access to a rooftop classroom.

Saugus Middle High School stands as a visible commitment to assuring the next generation of students will be stewards of both their community and their environment.

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