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Sustainable Development Strategies

Bell Prairie Elementary School

North Kansas City Schools serves more than 18,000 students who live in 12 municipalities across southern Clay County, Missouri. While designing its twenty-first elementary school, the district wanted to build on the green building successes of Staley High School while supporting the district’s vision and character statements. The 82,000 sf Bell Prairie Elementary School opened in 2009 to serve 750 students in grades K-5. The name “Bell Prairie” reflects the land and open space of the area, as well as makes historic reference to a former Clay county school near Nashua, Missouri.

During the design process, the team focused on making the school a flexible, living educational center to fulfill the District’s goals. The building is oriented for solar access and the west end of the building is bermed into a hill for solar protection. The main hall utilizes clerestory windows to deliver daylight to the space and provides access to the gym, cafeteria, and media center. Off the main hall, classrooms are contained in two east-west oriented wings for daylighting. The configuration of the wings creates an outdoor learning area that is accessed from the Media Center. Each wing has a central activity area for larger learning groups that is distinguished by a clerestory that allows north light to penetrate the space. Primary interior finishes include concrete block and gypsum board coated with low-VOC paints, floor tile, recycled content carpeting, and mineral fiber ceiling panels. Interior finishes have been chosen for their durability, regional manufacturing source, and for the ease or economics of cleaning them over the course of the building’s life.

The windmill, prominently featured above the Entrance to Bell Prairie Elementary School masonry cistern at the building’s main visitor entrance, is more than just aesthetically pleasing – it is actually a wind pump that moves the captured rainwater from the cistern to an elevated storage tank. A high-efficiency drip irrigation system draws the captured stormwater from the elevated storage tank to hydrate the rooftop garden’s sedums. The school district has permanently protected the on-site streamway and its riparian corridor by recording a preservation easement over the area. Stormwater runoff that is not captured in the cistern and reused for the rooftop garden is directed to at least one of three bioretention basins that slow and treat the stormwater runoff before reaching the streamway.

The HVAC system consists of a geoexchange heat pump system served by a vertical well field and variable speed pumping system. Temperature control to all spaces excluding the gymnasium is provided from ceiling mounted horizontal heat pumps. Roof mounted heat pumps with integral energy recovery wheels provide dedicated outside air for ventilation to each space in conjunction with a demand control ventilation system. Water-water heat pumps are utilized to provide domestic water heating for the facility. The HVAC system includes a building automation system with automatic time of day schedules and real time adjustments via the lighting control occupancy sensors.

Media Center entrance at Bell Prairie Elementary School Bell Prairie Elementary School is the first K-12 educational facility and the first elementary school in the state of Missouri to earn LEED® Gold certification. In December 2009, the school received its LEED Gold designation, scoring 39 points under the LEED-NC v2.2 Rating System. In keeping with the facility’s educational mission, District staff chose to create curriculum based on the school's green building features and to develop a green building education program.

From 2007 – 2010, Earthly Ideas was the sustainability and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) consultant for Bell Prairie Elementary School. We served as the green building information and education resource to the team during design and construction, coordinated the successful LEED certification process, and worked with the District on the development of the green building education program and curriculum. The green building education program included a guided walking tour available to visitors to the school. In addition, the Central Plains Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council developed a project profile highlighting the school’s achievements.