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Green by design
Hollis Montessori School joins select group
Large triple-pane windows are part of the Hollis Montessori School's Passive House design which uses a combination of architectural features and green technology to reduce energy use by 70 percent. (BARBARA TAORMINA)
Set in a renovated and expanded apple pie factory and surrounded by 9½ acres of orchard and town conservation land, Hollis Montessori officially opened the new school in April. The building is a certified "passive house," a new generation of green construction that cuts energy use by 70 percent with a combination of technology and design that dovetails with the Montessori approach to education.
In comparison, passive house standards and designs have a far more narrow focus.
"Passive house involves a set of building specifications concentrated on how much energy you use," Grossman said.
A ventilation and energy transfer system keeps fresh, outdoor air flowing in and stale indoor air moving out. But before the old air is expelled, heat or energy is extracted and used to either warm or cool the incoming air.
"I had been looking into passive house for awhile," said Ely, who specializes in energy-efficient design. "I knew the energy performance standard was very high, but I had questions about whether it was worth it."
The site lent itself well to a passive house design since the south side of the building looks out onto a rolling landscape of hills, woods and apple trees. Ely's design used large triple-pane windows that fill rooms with natural light.
For Ely, one of the biggest challenges was making sure the building remained airtight. Every time a plumbing or electrical subcontractor came in to drill a hole for a pipe or a wire, Ely followed up to make sure it was properly sealed.
"It cost about 10 percent more than traditional construction," he said.
The school offers programs for kids ages 3 to 15 and is divided into five multi-age classrooms. The Montessori approach to education is a hands-on system that give kids the freedom to follow their own interests at their own pace. There are no rows of desks, no chalk boards and no bells.
Ely then designed classrooms with lofts, open communal spaces and smaller niches. Kids can choose to work together or independently without interruption.
"I like the flow from the indoor to the outdoor with the windows that visually let in the environment," she said.
The interior of the school also features plenty of wood, linoleum and wool rather than nylon carpets.
And all of that's made easy work for Brent Carney, who does public relations work for the school.
Hollis Montessori School has already carved out a unique niche when it became the only Montessori school in New Hampshire to offer a program for middle school students.
With 80 kids now enrolled and room for at least 70 more, Grossman and the other founders and board members hope the school will grow and generate a longer list of accomplishments.
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