Something remarkable has happened in Washington, DC. Beyond the glare of the news cycle, the political positioning and the national debates, Dunbar High School, located a stone’s throw from the U.S. Capitol building, has achieved LEED Platinum certification. Not only has the school reached this milestone, it has become the highest-scoring school in the world certified under the LEED for Schools-New Construction rating system.
Scoring 91 out of 110 possible points, the newly constructed Dunbar came online in 2013 and was designed by USGBC Silver level member Perkins Eastman, an international design and architecture firm. Dunbar has a rich history; it was the first public high school in the nation for African Americans, originally founded in 1870.
Notably, Dunbar reported the highest standardized test scores of any school in the city for 2014, after just a single academic year in the new facility. The relationship between the state-of-the-art physical space and the elevated learning experience is hard to deny. Among other innovative design features, the school’s enhanced acoustics allow students and teachers to hear clearly, facilitating the back-and-forth engagement that is a critical element of a high-performance learning environment.
This masterpiece of a green learning environment encompasses a photovoltaic array that generates enough energy on a sunny summer day to power all classroom lights for eight hours. Additionally, deep below the surface of the school’s athletic fields is Washington, DC’s largest ground-source heat pump, with wells reaching down 460 feet. Two 20,000 gallon cisterns and low-flow systems help to conserve more than 1.4 million gallons of potable water each year.
The outstanding high-tech features at Dunbar are just the beginning of the story. After all, green buildings provide a framework to support new learned behaviors. Even with the very best energy and water-saving technology in place, a green building is only as effective as its occupants make it. With a legacy of leadership and strength of character, Dunbar’s students, teachers and administrators will undoubtedly demonstrate to the world that where we learn matters and that we can rise to untold heights when we are given the tools and environment to support our natural curiosity and inclination to grow.