Fred and Sara Machetanz Elementary School

Machetanz Alaska Elementary LEED School

Project: The Fred and Sara Machetanz Elementary School, Wasilla, Alaska

Firm: McCool Carlson Green

Product: 12-ft. diameter Powerfoil®, powder coated yellow

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“Heat would get trapped at the ceiling, requiring the boiler system to work harder to keep the space comfortable. Thanks to our Big Ass Fan, the movement of heat throughout the building is almost perfect.”

Ricky Jensen
Machetanz Elementary School

Project Summary

McCool Carlson Green designed Machetanz Elementary–Alaska’s first LEED®-certified school–with an open layout designed to stimulate student-centered learning. At the heart of the 500-student elementary school is a 1,800 sq. ft., two-story multipurpose room designed to house a wide range of activities. But with an open floor plan and frigid outside temperatures come mechanical concerns, as HVAC systems work harder to combat the natural phenomenon of heat stratification. In the winter months, the thermostat set is reduced to 55 F overnight. According to school officials, adding the Big Ass Fan in the building automation system has resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of time needed to warm the building to 68 F before students arrive each day. In fact, while most schools in the district take three to four hours to achieve the desired temperature, Machetanz takes only 15 to 20 minutes. The Big Ass Fan gently recirculates warm air trapped at the ceiling level, eliminating any floor-to-ceiling temperature discrepancy.

In the design phase, architects projected a building performance of 18,500 mbtu/year. Designers then made a few modifications to the design (orientation, daylighting and controls, among others), revising the performance goal to an impressive 8,700 mbtu/year. “After the first full year of occupancy, we discovered the actual building performance was 4,300 mbtu/yr, representing over $200,000 in annual savings,” said Jason Gamache, project architect for McCool Carlson Green.

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