|A planted eco-roof stands behind a statue of Jesus.|
Ed LangloisBEAVERTON — Outside and in, the new 67,000-square foot Valley Catholic elementary and middle school is as about as kind to the earth as a building can get. For the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon and other faculty and staff, the fact is full of spiritual meaning.
Of the Catholic Sentinel
"Everything that was done had a lot of thought put into it to praise God and to make us the best educational environment we could be," says Sister Adele Marie Altenhofen, president of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon Ministries Corporation.
The Green Building Certification Institute has given the school, which opened in fall 2011, a Gold rating for environmental design. Among the celebrated features are insulation made from recycled blue jeans, flooring created from corn chips and a roof covered with water-retaining and insulating plants.
The $12.7 million building was designed by Soderstrom Architects. KPFF Consulting Engineers and general contractor Howard S. Wright oversaw construction. Architects and crews used a high-efficiency HVAC system, large windows for natural lighting and a white cap sheet that reflects heat from sunlight and reduces cooling costs. Wood from a 209-year-old oak tree on the school site has been incorporated into wall paneling, chapel doors and furniture, and a wood slat ceiling. Outside, long rows of bike racks encourage alternate transportation.
All along the way, the Sisters were calling the moves.
During a ceremony to unveil a plaque, excited children quieted down and bowed their heads. Sister Charlene Herinckx, superior general of the sisters who founded the campus in the 1890s, said a prayer.
"You created us and the whole world, which you gave us to take care of," Sister Charlene said. "Show us new ways to keep our environment healthy as we continue to recycle, reduce and re-use."
She told the students that the Sisters love God, love the earth God gave and love them. For all those reasons, she said, they took the sometimes difficult and expensive steps to create a school that is sustainable, healthy and durable.
Bob Weber, president of Valley Catholic School, says the building represents the sisters' core values: live valiantly, seek excellence and celebrate God and life.
"We did a lot more than build a new building," says Weber.
There are 560 students in grades K-8. Before the new structure, grade school students occupied part of the Sisters' convent and junior high students studied in portable buildings.
The school has developed parts of classes that educate students about green construction and sustainability. In one project, students studied several environmental aspects of the building to learn how they work in sustainability models. They are working on creating signs to be posted throughout the school, explaining the benefits of the features.
Seventh-graders combine math and science as they use the building’s water meters to compare usage between the building and their own homes. Eighth-grade students conduct research using the green roof itself. High school students, whose building is nearby, annually study the creek in the wetlands behind the school. They'll assess how the new construction has or has not impacted natural waterways.