Lovett Middle SchoolBy Jenn Ballentine

In keeping with its green traditions, the Lovett School has opened its newest environmentally-friendly building. The Portman Family Middle School, a gift of the Jan and John Portman Family, provides sixth- through eighth-grade students with state-of-the-art learning facilities, including classrooms, science labs, a computer lab, art and drama studios, collaborative study rooms and a 500-seat multi-purpose room.

Designed to reflect Lovett’s commitment to stewardship of the environment, the building is seeking gold LEED-certification for sustainable building design. A green roof serves as outdoor classrooms and showcases an innovative system for harvesting rainwater for irrigation. Solar hot water, bamboo flooring, carpet with recycled content and daylight sensors are some of the many sustainable features that will be part of this new green school.

According to Principal Debbie Franks, this year was the “most delightful opening of school” in her 30-year career. “The building is so light and bright and the ambience spreads to everyone in it,” she said. “The students are very proud of their new building.”

In fact, 24 eighth-grade students volunteered to be student “LEEDers” and gave tours of the facility at the open house in August and at Homecoming last month. Sustainability is a part of the curriculum for all students, however, with 10 hours of instruction required. The teachers incorporate aspects of the building into their lessons, particularly in the areas of science and math.

Fourteen teachers participated in the design of the building and were able to provide their input into the process. This, said Franks, was very valuable and has made the teachers even more proud of their rooms and the school as a whole. Each floor has study rooms and student printers with built-in recycling areas. All sixth-grade students have laptops and send and receive homework assignments, papers and other documents electronically in an effort to reduce waste.

The Middle School will use 21 percent less energy than established standards, with water heaters that are supplemented by solar hot water, high-performance exterior wall, window, and roof systems that minimize air infiltration and daylight and motion sensors that reduce power consumption for lighting. Additionally, the facility boasts low-emitting adhesives and sealants, paints and stains, composite wood, and flooring systems that reduce contaminants in the air and light-colored pavement, a sloped roof and planted roof surfaces that reduce the “heat island effect.”

Dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals, and low-flow faucets enable Lovett to save 420,000 gallons of water per year over conventional plumbing. Rainwater collection, efficient irrigation systems, and native and adaptive site plantings were designed to reduce potable water consumption by 60 percent. Rainwater is collected in a cistern below the green roof for use in irrigation. The cistern can hold close to 4,500 gallons of water.

By building green, Lovett can potentially save $100,000 a year. Green schools are better for children because they provide healthy learning environments that are quiet, well-lit, and comfortable. Studies also show that green schools increase student performance, improve teacher retention, and have greater operational savings.

Thirteen-year-old seventh-grader Austyn Wohlers feels a difference in the new building. “Everything’s big and open,” she said. “Last year, it was really dark and small.” Wohlers is enjoying learning about composting and gardening and, although she’s unhappy about not being able to bring bottled water to school, she understands that it is bad for the environment and that what her school promotes is valuable. “Even though we’re not making a big difference in the long run, other schools will see what we’re doing and want to do it too,” she said.

Collin KelleyEditor

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.