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Career Technical Education “Green” Construction and Transportation Academy at South Tahoe High School

In these financially strapped times, people are getting creative with their finances. Lake Tahoe Unified School District has been doing the same –and getting incredible results for their students and community. After putting together a District Facilities Master Plan in December 2007, the district prepared for a bond which passed in September of 2008.

For a district with no new construction eligibility dollars, what did their gumption and creativity get them? Plenty.

The district received almost $30 million in funds from Career Technical Education (CTE), Overcrowded Relief (ORG), Joint-Use, and High Performance building grants. Between these monies, and the bond that their community passed, the district was able to create five extraordinary learning facilities for their students.

First to be completed, was the $12.5 million CTE “Green” Construction and Transportation Academy. Second, was a $12 million ORG funded classroom building. To be finished in September, is the $13 million Tahoe Arts and Design Academy. And lastly, a new Campus Commons Student Union and Sports Medicine Academy are to be up and running in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Each project is CHPS* designed and qualified for the High Performance Energy Grant, beating California’s Title 24 energy standards by 30 percent (when space cooling is removed from energy calculations as no mechanical cooling systems are provided).

Sustainable features at South Tahoe High School:

  • Operable windows allow the buildings to breathe and take advantage of the South Tahoe climate –no mechanical cooling systems were used.
  • Natural light illuminates spaces with daylighting and occupancy controls.
  • Exposed wood structures and building systems create living laboratories and educational tools for students to experience smart green design
  • Learning courtyards incorporate fire resistant plants native to (or adapted to) the Tahoe region. Vegetation is irrigated with water efficient systems during warmer, dryer months.
  • Buildings touch the site lightly to minimize impact on existing, mature pine trees.
  • Storm water runoff is collected and infiltrated in cobble trenches that penetrate the soil with excess water conveyed either to an on-site detention basin or subsurface “storm chamber,” located under vehicular areas. This allows onsite storm water to recharge the groundwater.
  • Exterior lighting incorporates full, cut-off light fixtures which prevent light from projecting above the fixture, helping to preserve Tahoe’s dark skies and prevent glare into unwanted areas.
  • Signage and graphics highlight attributes which make the project environmentally responsible. Sustainable signage is incorporated into the curriculum for “teachable moments” throughout the space.
  • Material selection was guided by a “do more with less” approach. Wherever possible the structure of the buildings is exposed (i.e. glu-lam beams, concrete block and concrete slabs), and becomes part of the finish palette.
  • Finish material selections have a high recycled content.
  • All classrooms meet the stringent CHPS requirements for Sound Transmission Class (STC) standards.

Of the five facilities, the CTE Green Construction and Transportation Academy has been of particular interest. The academy exposes students to careers in green construction, auto mechanics and technology. The space offers labs for construction technologies, CAD drafting, and graphic design, along with a 10-bay auto shop modeled after a commercial auto dealership. Here, students learn green automotive and transportation technologies including how to work on and repair hybrid vehicles.

“Career Technical Education supports a different learning style,” says Dr. Jim Tarwater, Superintendent of Lake Tahoe Unified School District. “It’s about giving students pathways for careers ranging from arts, media, entertainment, and theater to construction, architectural design, and automotives … These programs and their facilities work together at South Tahoe High School. We hope our students enjoy them, and learn a lot.”

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Status: Built
Location: Tahoe City, CA, US