Center for Energy Efficient Design

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As the first Passivhaus public school in North America, the Center for Energy Efficient Design (CEED) in Rocky Mount, Virginia, is a national model for green school construction. An extension of The Leonard A. Gereau Center for Applied Technology and Career Exploration, CEED is “a building that teaches,” providing hands-on instruction in energy efficient and sustainable design principles to advanced placement middle- and high-school students.

Though initially conceived as an earth sheltered structure, the 3,600 SF high-performance school building evolved to Passivhaus when Passiv Science founder Adam Cohen and team demonstrated the approach’s superior energy efficiency and lower construction expense. As a Passivhaus the school cost $26,000 less to build, thanks to a high-performance building envelope that pushed heating and cooling demand so low that expensive mechanical systems could be eliminated and replaced with simpler, smaller equipment.

To meet its educational mission and reach students from across the mid-Atlantic region, the CEED building must accommodate everything from large, 100-person tour groups to small parent/teacher conferences. To meet these widely varying demands without wasting energy on unused capacity, Cohen and his team built flexibility into CEED’s ventilation, heating and cooling. Cohen started by partnering with an American manufacturer to develop a variable-speed ERV that supplies 200-2000 CFM of fresh air to the building. A carbon dioxide sensor monitors occupancy demand and ramps air supply up and down automatically.

The building draws on a two-stage heating and cooling system to ensure thermal comfort for occupants.  The first stage preconditions incoming fresh air as it enters the ERV with a passive thermal ground loop and/or solar heated water. The second stage, only necessary for larger groups, employs a US-made ground source heat pump for extra cooling.

This flexible strategy, made possible by Passivhaus building science expertise, achieves both revolutionary energy performance and superior thermal comfort for the building. CEED uses 70% less energy than its conventional counterparts. And a USGBC thermal comfort survey conducted 10 months into the building’s occupancy showed 0% thermal comfort dissatisfaction.

CEED’s high performance design and construction brought lower operational costs, increased health and comfort, and reduced carbon footprint.

Project Team