New Day School: Oregon’s first zero energy preschool

It’s a new day, at New Day School. In 2020, this beloved neo-humanist preschool — whose tranquil gardens and fluttering emanations of youthful laughter have long graced Portland’s Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood — began a radical zero energy transformation. The result is a facility that is less expensive to operate, safer for students, more comfortable, more beautiful, and better aligned with the respect for the living (and non-living) world that is at the core of New Day’s teachings.

On June 28th, the Solar Oregon community had a chance to explore the new school house, and hear from project team members. This event, supported by Energy Trust of Oregon, was one of a series of “solar showcases” hosted by Solar Oregon in recent months. Personally, it was such a joy to see folks connecting face-to-face again, including Oregonians who trekked from as far away as Springfield.

During the panel discussion, Laura Squillace and Alex Boetzel — respectively, Architect and Director of Sustainability and Operations at design-build firm Green Hammer — described the features incorporated into the retrofit. From non-toxic flooring made from flax seed, to an automated ventilation system that responds to indoor CO2 levels, an ensemble of technologies work in concert to create an efficient, highly functional, safe, and beautiful environment that centers the needs of the students that now occupy it every day. Read Green Hammer’s full case study of this project here.

Jim Steiner, Energy Consultant at Sunbridge Solar, described New Day School’s new rooftop solar and battery backup system. This system provides enough energy to power not only the main school house itself, but also the auxiliary classrooms and meditation space next door. Although the battery backup system added to the overall project cost, New Day School saw it as key to providing a safe environment for its students in the event of a large earthquake. When the “big one” strikes, students will be able to shelter safely with uninterrupted access to electricity as they wait until their parents are able to pick them up. The cost of New Day’s solar plus storage system was partially covered by donations from the families of current and former students.

It’s fun to be a kid again, and inspiring to see zero energy design incorporated into a project with such direct social benefit and rich philosophical symbolism. Thank you to New Day School for hosting us, and to Energy Trust of Oregon for supporting this and other Solar Oregon showcases.

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