New school could generate enough electricity to power 121 N.C. homes

New school could generate enough electricity to power 121 N.C. homes

Rendering courtesy of SfL+a Architects

A new 10-story building in downtown Raleigh, N.C., that will house Exploris School and other tenants is expected to generate so much electricity, some tenants won’t even get a power bill. 

The “energy positive building” will be built on the 5.9-acre site of a former Duke Energy data center near the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, reports the News & Observer. Exploris acquired the site for $4.4 million in May of 2016. The facade of the futuristic steel, glass and concrete building will be covered by enough solar panels to annually power 121 North Carolina homes. 

Dubbed an “energy positive building,” it is expected to generate more electricity than the building needs to operate, said Robert Ferris, CEO and president of SfL+a Architects, the Raleigh firm that designed the building.

The roughly $65 million building is 50 percent leased, developers said

Crews have begun preparing the site, and office tenants are expected to move in by the end of the year. Exploris could be ready for students in the fall of 2018.

The space allows Exploris to consolidate its elementary and middle schools on a single campus, said Summer Clayton, Exploris’ executive director. Exploris Middle School is now at 401 Hillsborough St., while the elementary school operates out of trailers on New Bern Avenue. 

The charter school also plans to increase enrollment from about 420 to 650 students. 

School leaders found there was curriculum potential in the building, because it can serve as a tool for teachers, eighth-grade teacher Shannon Hardy said.

In addition to the huge solar array, the building will have a variety of energy-saving technologies like a geothermal heating and cooling system, which uses underground pipes to cool water in the summer and warm it in the winter. 

All sorts of sensors will collect data about the building’s systems and a central computer will identify trends in energy usage and water consumption.

Exploris will occupy about 55,000 square feet in three stories of the building. It will have banks of windows and glass walls to allow sunlight across the building, Buckman said. 

SfL+a, specializes in school design and has designed 11 energy positive buildings, Ferris said. The Kindley project is the tallest most challenging, but the company was able to add enough energy saving features to make it work.

“We can do so much more,” Ferris said. “This is just scratching the surface of where we’re going.

Exploris’ space is expected to cost about $20 million, which will be financed by about $19 in municipal bonds, Clayton said. The school also hopes to raise an additional $1 million to fund extra technology. 

Hardy said she hopes that the Exploris school will serve as a model for other schools in Wake County and beyond, because it is less expensive has fewer square feet per student than a typical public school.


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