Campus Sustainability

Mansfield Breaks Ground on State’s First Net Zero Elementary School

The town of Mansfield, Conn., broke ground last week on the state’s first net-zero elementary school. Local politicians, town administrators, parents and students attended the ceremony on Thursday, June 25. The new school, which has yet to be named, will replace the town’s three existing elementary schools.

“Mansfield will go from three elementary schools and one middle school, to one elementary school and a middle school,” said Mansfield Town Manager Ryan Aylesworth.

The school’s construction was a decade in the making, according to Aylesworth, following needs assessments, studies, and discussions with administrators. Funding was approved through a referendum held in Nov. 2020, allocating up to $50.5 million for the project. In April 2021, the Mansfield School Building Project Committee approved a bid by Newfield Construction Group LLC in Hartford, Conn., of about $36.4 million. The school is scheduled to open in time for the fall 2022 semester.

According to Jeff Brown of TSKP Studio, the project’s architect, the building will use geothermal and solar technologies to achieve its net-zero status. He noted that the building will have a tight envelope and retain as much heating and cooling as possible. Tai Soo Kim, a partner at TSKP, noted that all classrooms will face south to allow natural sunlight to reach deep into the school and reduce the need for artificial light. The windows will be equipped with sunshades to reduce heat in classrooms during hotter months.

Brown and Kim said that, in line with the commitment to sustainability, natural materials like wood will be used as much as possible.

“It’s a fitting end to a difficult year to announce the beginning of construction for such an exciting new community school,” said Mansfield Mayor Antonia Moran at the ceremony. “From a town perspective, this building meets our goals for high-quality education, sustainability and smart financial planning.”

The new school will house students ages pre-kindergarten through fourth grade. Officials say that the facility will assist with issues of aging infrastructure and declining enrollment to save money in the long term.

“This has been a learning experience for us and for our management team, especially for our architects and their engineering team,” said Mansfield School Building Committee Chairman Randy Walikonis. “However, they did create a net-zero energy building with the use of an extensive geothermal field to reduce energy needs, abundance use of solar panels, appropriate orientation of the building, creation of a tight envelope in the building and finding creative ways to bring in natural light deep into the building. And that’s quite a feat.”

The school will feature a 492-kilowatt photovoltaic array on the roof, as well as reduced air infiltration and exterior lighting motion sensors, Energy Star appliances and geothermal pump water heating, and LED lighting.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].