Better HVAC for a Sustainable School


The Willow School was able to earn the Living Building challenge certification with help from Mitsubishi Electric’s VRF system.

Mark and Gretchen Biedron co-founded the The Willow School (Willow) in Gladstone, N.J., to celebrate learning and collaboration, and foster ethical relationships between people and the natural systems that support them. Sustainability drives the curriculum and building design, which led to the selection of a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) system from Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating (Mitsubishi Electric) for its Health, Wellness and Nutrition Center.

Biedron and his team took on the Living Building Challenge (LBC) for the Health, Wellness and Nutrition Center, which required everything in the building to be 100-percent electric. The team chose VRF over an all-electric geothermal system because “VRF was well ahead on net-zero efficiency.” The need for an electric kitchen contributed to the selection of highefficiency electric heat pumps and photovoltaic panels to offset the energy used.

Including Lossnay Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) further improved efficiencies. When conditions are agreeable for natural ventilation, a controls system prompts teachers and students to open classroom windows. Otherwise, the ERVs recover energy from exhaust air to simultaneously cool or heat outside ventilation air.

“We had to remain net-zero or netpositive. With solar panels and the Mitsubishi [Electric] system, we were able to achieve that,” says Biedron. “A conventional facility built to code uses between 100-150 kBtu per square foot …but this building uses only 21 kBtu per square foot. If you remove the kitchen, it would only use 15 kBtu per square foot.” Willow is one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the country.

The project earned LBC certification and is also recognized as a Green Ribbon School by the United States DOE.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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