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New Zealand’s First Solar Powered School Opens

17 June 2014

New Zealand’s First Solar Powered School Opens

Thursday 12 June marked the opening of the Ministry of Education’s Pegasus Primary School – New Zealand’s greatest advancement in sustainable schools. It is designed to achieve a NZ Green Building Council 5 Green Star Certification, but goes much further.

Pegasus Primary School, designed by architecture firm Jasmax, is a pilot project for sustainable solutions in our community. Designed to be a ‘net zero energy school’, the building should generate as much power as it will use every year. Prime Minister John Key has described the school as “a window into the future”.

The building, completed earlier this month, is fitted with 560m2 of solar electric panels which feed electricity into the school and any excess to the national grid. The electricity is used for lighting, computers and to power the efficient air-sourced heat pumps for underfloor heating. In addition five high performance solar hot water systems provide the children and staff with warm water. The low maintenance closed-loop drain-back hot water systems are designed to last thirty years and serve utility/ toilet clusters and kitchens in each block.

The building’s design however, will not just streamline cost efficiencies and act responsibly within the local environment, it will also provide a comfortable and inspiring learning environment for its students. Roger Hornblow, Pegasus Bay School Principal, comments “These children will have a new understanding of sustainability and eco-efficiency from attending Pegasus Bay. Our Net Zero Energy school will educate our pupils and community about acting responsibly for the environment and their future. Many people say we need to leave a better planet for our children - at Pegasus Bay, we say we need to leave better more informed children for our planet.

“By living and learning in these super-efficient buildings and witnessing first-hand how they themselves are capable of monitoring their own energy requirements, the students will be savvy eco-leaders of the future.”

Hamish Boyd, Jasmax Project Principal, comments “There is pride in being cutting edge and creating a powerful identity for a school. The Ministry of Education has given us the opportunity to not only empower students, staff and parents in the environment we create for them, but also to push the boundaries of educational design and make real advancements in our sustainable approach for schools in NZ.”

About the School’s design:
Improvements have been made to the design of the building ‘envelope’ using concepts such as thicker insulation, edge of floor insulation, better glazing with excellent daylight harvesting and good airtightness, to stop energy leaks. These techniques all contribute towards reducing energy usage by a staggering 40%; from good practice 60kwhs/m2/year to global best practice 36kwh/m2/year.

The efficient building savings complement the solar electric panels to generate about $28,000 of power a year (at 18c/kwh). When the benefits of an improved indoor environment are included from the natural ventilation strategies and underfloor heating, the payback for the investment is about nine years and reduces carbon emissions of Pegasus School by nearly a 100 tonnes/year CO2(e) per year.

In addition, Pegasus School is the first primary school in the greater Christchurch region to fully embrace the modern learning environment concept. The school design is based on learning communities, which are the equivalent of three classrooms. These communities are set up in pairs with shared resource and more specialised break out spaces between. There is a well-connected central administration facility, with the Library / Student commons space linked through the entry atrium with large sliding doors to the hall, to provide a multifunctional school and community space. Initially the school will have a student roll of 450 growing to 650.


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