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First Mesa Elementary School Project Team

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certified Indian School, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Polacca, Arizona

Mark Hopwood
Bureau of Indian Affairs, NM
Phone: 505-563-5111

Summary

First Mesa Elementary School serves approximately 400 elementary students in Polacca, Arizona.  As the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified school in Arizona, and the second for Interior, the school resolves a variety of environmental issues that are important in this remote and arid region.  Careful collaboration between client, architect, and contractor resulted in a facility that met and exceeded the client’s needs and which achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.  The colors and materials selected for the exterior of the building were chosen to complement the surrounding natural environment and reflect traditional Hopi culture.  The school boasts many environmentally preferable features.  No potable water is used for irrigation.  Fixtures, including sinks, urinals and toilets, achieve more than 30 percent savings in water usage.  All mechanical and electrical systems were commissioned to maximize performance.  Despite the remoteness of the site, the school has initiated an aggressive recycling program.  The school facility includes classrooms, media center/library, a 600 seat gymnasium, administrative area, cafeteria and food service facilities, an art/music classroom, play fields, playgrounds.  A weather station and educational displays throughout the building make the building a learning experience in itself. 

Detailed Description

First Mesa Elementary School
Polacca, Arizona, Hopi Indian Reservation
Owner: Hopi Tribe
Contract Administrator: Bureau of Indian Affairs OFMC, Albuquerque, NM
Architect of Record: Dyron Murphy Architects, P.C.

Introduction:

This new K-6 elementary school for the Hopi Tribe, serves as the replacement school for the former Polacca Day School. The Bureau of Indian Affairs provided $14 million in project funding, for a 75,000 square foot school, a bus barn and 22 staff quarters. The school facility was designed by Dyron Murphy to reflect and express Hopi tribal culture. The project was managed by the Hopi Tribe through the P.L. 93-638 contracting process with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The project delivery method was Construction Manager at Risk, managed by Kitchell Contractors of Phoenix, Arizona. The project was designed on a fast-track basis, with 3 bid packages issued at various stages of design and construction.  Careful collaboration between client, architect and contractor resulted in a facility that met and exceeded the client’s needs and which achieved LEEDtm certification.

A weather station and educational displays throughout the building make the building a learning experience in itself.  The colors and materials selected for the exterior of the building were chosen to complement the surrounding natural environment and reflect traditional Hopi culture.

The school facility includes classrooms, media center/library, a 600 seat gymnasium, administrative area, cafeteria and food service facilities, an art/music classroom, play fields, playgrounds, drives, and support services.

Need and Implementation:

The Hopi Indian Reservation is a remote and arid land that has always demanded much of its inhabitants.  Surface water in streams or lakes is practically nonexistent.  Wells are deep and water quality is variable.  Wastewater is difficult to deal with due to the impermeability of soils and difficulty of the rocky, hilly terrain.  Resources of almost any type are limited and precious.  The basic necessities of modern life must be trucked in from cities.

In the midst of this harsh environment, the Hopi people, under the P.L. 93-638 contracting process are building schools, clinics and housing to serve the needs of a steadily growing tribal population.

First Mesa Elementary School serves approximately 400 elementary students in Polacca, Arizona.  As the first LEEDtm certified school in Arizona, and the second for the Department of the Interior (DOI), the school facility responds to a variety of environmental issues that are important in this region.

In order to ensure that the school was designed and built in an environmentally responsible manner, the tribe decided to pursue United States Green Building Council (USGBC) LEEDtm certification, despite the fact that the remoteness of Polacca and consequent difficulties in materials deliveries, manpower, lodging and other issues made   this task extremely difficult.

The Albuquerque BIA-OFMC, which had overseen the first and only successful DOI  LEEDtm project, administered the P.L. 93-638 contract.  One of the greatest challenges was to incorporate green principles and practices while staying within the project budget, and to produce a facility that responded to the programmatic and cultural requirements of the tribe.

Innovation:

At the time this facility was designed and built, the project team had very little experience with LEEDtm requirements, and was obliged to learn as the project moved forward.  Innovation and initiative were the team’s guiding principles.

The school site was chosen to fulfill the site selection criteria of the tribe, BIA and USGBC.  Special care was taken to locate the building away from flood zones and animal habitat and grazing areas.  The area of the project site was severely restricted to minimize damage to the delicate desert ecosystem, and storm water runoff was channeled into low-lying areas for infiltration into the ground.  The site and building were both designed to minimize heat absorption.  The roof of the school is a highly reflective white membrane, while large areas of the site are landscaped with high reflectance gravel and rock.  Exterior lighting is limited and downward-directed in order to maintain the dark night sky of the Hopi Reservation.

The use of water for landscaping is reduced by over 50% compared to benchmark designs through the use of xeric plantings and a drip irrigation system.  No potable water is used for irrigation.  Fixtures including sinks, urinals and toilets, achieve more than 30% savings in water usage – an important feature in a region that often receives less than 10 inches of rainfall in a year.

All mechanical and electrical systems within the building were thoroughly commissioned to maximize performance.  Performance data has been requested from the school.  Use of CFCs in HVAC equipment was eliminated.  “Green Power” credits were purchased as part of a program to encourage alternative energy sources.

Despite the remoteness of the site, the school has initiated an aggressive recycling program.  Space within the building is allocated for storage of recycled materials.  The contractor participated in an aggressive recycling program that resulted in a more than 75% reduction in materials sent to a landfill.

In order to enhance the quality of fresh air within the building, carbon dioxide is monitored in many locations.  Low or zero volatile organic compounds (VOC)-emitting adhesives and sealants were eliminated from the project, and carpets containing no or low VOC levels were installed.  Paint was specified to be zero VOC-containing, but the subcontractor inadvertently used a non-compliant primer in some areas, and thus this credit was not achieved.  The school participates in a regional green housekeeping program that effectively eliminates most noxious chemicals from the facility.  For the few potentially objectionable chemicals that might need to be stored within, a chemical cabinet with separate exterior exhaust is provided.  In addition, thermostats can be individually controlled within occupied spaces, providing a high degree of control to building occupants.

Over 75% of the school’s regularly occupied spaces receive daylighting, while over 90% of the spaces have views to the exterior.

Besides the green housekeeping program, the school participates in an educational outreach effort to teach students, teachers and the public about environmentally sustainable design and construction practices.  The facility itself is a laboratory of sorts, with signage and brochures that guide visitors through a self-guided tour of the building’s green features. 

A LEEDtm accredited professional directed the green effort from the project’s inception through its completion and certification.

Partnering and Cooperative Conservation:

In accordance with EO13352, “Facilitation of Cooperative Conservation”, this effort succeeded in bringing together a surprising variety of groups and individuals, all of whom were vital for the success of the project.  Prior to the beginning of design, few team members had participated in or even heard of a LEEDtm project.  The BIA and A/E team worked tirelessly to educate and inspire tribal members, school administrators and staff, contractors, subcontractors and subconsultants.  Over the course of the project, the entire project team came to understand and embrace the environmentally sustainable principals underlying the LEEDtm effort.  Meetings were held in Polacca and Albuquerque, New Mexico to discuss project ideals and realities, and field trips were arranged to allow project stakeholders to personally visit green facilities and compare various green building and furniture components.

Scope of Project Impact:

The completed facility contributed to the national effort to achieve a more sustainable environment on several levels.

  • The design and construction followed LEEDtm principles and guidelines
  • Programs within the school educate students, faculty and the community about sustainable issues
  • The State of Arizona uses the school as a prototype for its green school effort
  • Water, wastewater and energy use has been significantly reduced
  • Recycling and trash reduction has become a part of the school’s culture

This project was not only designed to be green, but also to respond to the Hopi people’s culture and world view.  It is a beautiful facility that fits within its environment.  The principles employed in its design and construction are already being applied and refined at several other BIA and State of New Mexico school facilities.

 


U.S. Department of the Interior

Greening of the Interior

catherine_cesnik@ios.doi.gov