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Arlington Va. school uses Net Zero Energy building

Discovery Elementary in Arlington is using a Net Zero Energy building.  (Photo, ABC7)
Discovery Elementary in Arlington is using a Net Zero Energy building. (Photo, ABC7)
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"Schools in this country spend about $8,000,000,000 on energy," Dept. of Energy Building Technologies Director David Nemtzow says.

Well, you can take Discovery Elementary out of the equation. It's a Net Zero Energy building.

Meaning roughly, it uses the same amount of renewable energy that it creates.

"This is our future,” Nemtzow added. “Kids and zero energy. Discovery Elementary is at the lead of that."

Officials with DOE toured the school in North Arlington to see how it works; from the energy saving LED lights throughout the school, to the air quality sensors in every classroom. It recycles rain water. The kitchen 100% electric. No gas. Even the water coming out of the drinking fountains is produced on campus. There are pumps under what they call the 'Geothermal Well Field.'

"We are probably saving about $78,000 a year on this building,” said Asst. Superintendent for Arlington Public Schools John Chadwick. “Which will vary depending on weather."

It cost $34 million to build the school. Which begs the question: Was the extra money to build this school worth it?

"We do not believe we would have spent anymore on this building had we planned a really efficient building in the first place," Chadwick answered.

But Arlington Public Schools did spend an extra one and half million dollars on the solar panels to power the building and make it self-sufficient. It estimates a 10-year payoff. Some schools in the district are more than 50 years old, so it considers the money well spent.

Not to mention students are excelling.

“The students love it here. Because of the unique building, learning is fun,” said school Principal Erin Russo.

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To officially be considered a ‘Net Zero Energy’ building utility costs have to be less or equal to zero over a one year period. The school paid some utilities over its first six months, but it’s still expected to meet the requirements come January.

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