Cutting water use in half
The school was consciously designed to address the impacts a large school has on the environment. Since the beginning of the 2017 school year, these measures have reduced over 5000m3 of potable water.
Amber Trails has achieved over 50 per cent reduction in water use. The school division reported that they are saving approximately $7,224 per year on water and it was found that the average water consumption for Amber Trails is 1.21 m3 per student, in comparison to 3.2m3 per student at a similar school.
A student run organic vegetable farm was developed last summer on site enabling students in the farming club to work together with a farm coordinator to cultivate a mixture of over 20 varieties of vegetables. Vegetables are sold to staff and community members and students work on the farm throughout the summer, while learning about the benefits of local food systems.
The school is currently working on a timeline based document that incorporates the climatic seasons as a teaching activities’ guideline surrounding the school’s vegetable farm in order supporting land-based education to promote a deeper sense of place, an awareness of human impacts and how they acknowledge and connect with natural cycles.
Weaving LEED certification into school curriculum
As part of their path to LEED Platinum certification, Amber Trails included a public teaching document that wove the school’s green design features into the daily instruction and learning activities. This enabled students to interact with the daily functions of the school facility in ways that raise their awareness of energy conservation, resource consumption, waste generation and the influence of the micro-climate on building systems and human comfort.
Minimizing energy consumption, GHG emissions and cost
The project owner, Seven Oaks School Division and PSFB, made the decision to eliminate natural gas from the project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and future mechanical maintenance costs.
With the combination of geothermal heating and cooling, radiant floor heating, low flow fixtures and other initiatives, the building achieved over 68 per cent energy savings and a lower carbon footprint. There are no gas emissions from this school since this building is primarily heated with heat pumps with electric boilers as backup giving zero carbon emissions.
Health and well-being
Each classroom has three large windows and a partially glazed wall separating the classroom from the hallway. This allows for fresh air, outdoor views and natural light to come into the classroom and filter through to the central hallway providing positive impacts on the mental and physical well-being of both students and teachers.
The centrally located Outdoor Learning Environment and integration into the surrounding public trails encourages sustainable development programs and encourages teachers to take their instruction outside. Additionally, the school has adopted a “balanced” school day schedule which provides students and teachers with two longer nutrition breaks rather than one lunch break, as well as activity breaks allowing students more time to play outside.
Amber Trails Community School was designed to be a healthy, energy efficient building. By implementing sustainability programs and through the participation of students and teachers, the sense of environmental stewardship extends well beyond the building. Students are learning how to be healthy members of the community and have embraced these important first steps to becoming future leaders and environmental advocates.