Liberty’s renovation is the talk of earth-friendly buildings
May 13, 2014
By Neil Pierson
Liberty High School students are keenly aware their school is undergoing a major modernization project, but they might not know the intricate details about the new building’s environmental friendliness.
Liberty’s renovation was part of a large-scale discussion at the school last month when the school’s Sustainability Ambassadors hosted three assemblies about green-building practices.
The discussions, titled STAR Talks (Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating) were designed to give the student body a taste for what the new wave of building standards look like, particularly in regard to schools.
Sustainability Ambassadors is a group that connects students from King County. They focus on a variety of eco-friendly topics, and each student receives about 120 hours of training per year in public speaking, policy analysis, project management and performance assessment activities.
Vincy Fok, a Liberty sophomore, was moved to join the ambassadors after one of the group’s leadership coaches, Peter Donaldson, spoke in her class last year.
“I’ve learned the issues on sustainability in our local area, and the solutions that have been proposed,” Fok said. “There’s so much out there that has been proposed, and there’s so much that we can do.
“As students, we’re able to educate other students. I just find that really powerful, and I’m really passionate about this cause.”
Fok and several other students are part of the school’s video production crew that is helping spread information about the ambassadors. For months, they’ve been filming behind-the-scenes footage of the STAR Talks. They plan to put it online and distribute it to civic leaders on school boards and city councils.
STAR Talks are modeled on TED Talks, a popular online video series addressing various scientific, technological and cultural topics.
Griffin Dittmar is leading the video production, and he’s noticed a lot of interesting things about Liberty’s renovation, which is scheduled for completion this summer. The new school will have a living “green wall,” and filling stations for reusable water bottles. The new Jill Landback Auditorium, which hosted the STAR Talks, is wired in an environmentally conscious way, Dittmar said.
“From a visual aspect the architecture is absolutely astonishing,” he added. “… The more we dig into this, the more we realize, ‘Hey, there’s a lot more to this building than just meets the eye.’”
James Ricks, a sophomore, led a STAR Talk about building design standards. More schools are adopting Leadership in Energy and Environment Design standards, and state-funded school construction projects are now required to follow a similar set of rules, the Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol.
Ricks said he thinks his peers aren’t aware of the details of Liberty’s modernization project.
“They know the school is under construction, they know that there’s some renovation going on here, but they don’t know the gravity of it,” he said, “and it’s my hope that through these presentations, we can share some of that with them.”
Sophomore Lorrin Johnson researched building codes for her STAR Talk, and found local builders and developers are using a system called Built Green, which rates new homes based on energy efficiency, building materials, landscaping and other factors.
The Issaquah area has more than 3,700 new homes that meet Built Green standards, tops among cities in King and Snohomish counties.
“The reason why you want to be Built Green is it’s healthier and it’s cheaper, ultimately, in the long run,” Johnson said. “It’s not required but … it’s a good market to be in for (builders) because people want that.”