Developing unique ways to collaborate with local utilities to offer sustainable options

By Heidi Willis

November 18, 2020
Cedar Falls Community School District and INVISION have worked from the start to push the possibilities in the design of the new Cedar Falls High School to integrate connectedness, community, and diversity into the future of learning. Sustainability has been at the forefront of the design decisions to ensure project decisions made are weighed against the global impacts to the environment.

From the start of the project, the design team analyzed optimization of solar orientation, a tight building envelope, appropriate use of glazing, and design of high-performance integrated systems with an overall project goal to be net zero ready. A net zero building is a facility that produces as much energy as it consumes. The design team utilized several software tools to understand how design decisions were impacting the overall energy usage. Software simulations predict that the new high school, at almost 300,000 sf, will consume less than half of the energy the current high school consumes per square foot in a year.

In close collaboration with Cedar Falls Utility and the school district, the design team is working through several different options to include solar energy production on the site. Areas identified include roof mounted panels, ground-mounted solar, and shaded parking structures. The locations identified have potential to produce enough energy for the new high school plus additionally deliver energy back to the power grid.

Achieving net zero in the cold Iowa climate presents significant challenges due to high demands for heating energy. According to the New Buildings Institute, states with the most zero energy educational facilities include California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Oregon and Texas. The new Cedar Falls High School will be the first K‑12 facility in the state of Iowa and Midwest region to near zero energy. The Maharishi University of Management Sustainable Living Center located in Fairfield, Iowa is the closest educational facility reaching net zero.

INVISION is grateful for the team collaboration to design a facility that pushes the possibilities, serves as a teaching tool and a beacon for sustainability for the community it serves.

For more detail on the sustainability component of the new Cedar Falls High School, watch the video below.