The 44,395-square-foot High Tech High Chula Vista is a public charter school for 550 students in grades 9-12. It is LEED for School Gold–certified, EPA Energy Star–certified, and verified under the Collaborative for High Performance Schools.

Located seven miles to the south of San Diego and seven miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, the school’s site is layered down to the Otay River Valley in the south, consisting of parking and circulation, school buildings, playing fields, and a revegetated slope. The school itself is broken into modular components with three internal courtyards interspersed between. The construction is a mix of off-site custom modular components, factory-built components, and traditional on-site components that allow the modules to be disassembled, relocated, and reused in the future.

Seminar rooms, spaces between classrooms (called studios) and teacher offices are clustered in neighborhoods and operable partitions in all core learning areas provide flexibility. Durable, low-toxicity, low-maintenance materials include polished concrete floors, steel framing, steel roof and floor decking, and fiber-cement siding.

A porous design aims to blend indoors and out. All classrooms are equipped with operable windows. Studios and hallways are passively conditioned and a conditioned crawlspace is under the school. The crawlspace is designed so that air from the conditioned spaces above flows down into the space via air-transfer grilles, where it circulates to moderate temperature. Above each of the outdoor courtyards are solar canopies that generate about 80 percent of the project’s demanded energy.

By the numbers:

Building gross floor area: 44,395 square feet
Number of occupants: 585 (plus 30 visitors)
Percent of the building that is daylight: 86
Percent of the building that can be ventilated or cooled with operable windows: 88
Total water used, indoors and outdoors: 949,960 gallons per year
Calculated annual potable water use: 5.14 gallons per square foot per year
Total energy (MBtu per year): 808
EPA performance rating: 94
Percent total energy savings: 50
LEED rating: Gold, LEED for Schools 2.0

For more information on each project, including extended slideshows, click on the individual projects in the sidebar at left. To access a database of past Top Ten projects, visit ECO-STRUCTURE will be covering the 2011 COTE Top Ten projects in depth in its July/August issue.