News Release – Building Net-Zero Energy Ready Seattle School

New Net-Zero Energy Ready Seattle Area Public School Designed for 47% Less Energy Use than Stringent EnergyStar® Target

Structural Insulated Panels from Premier Building Systems Help Create a Tight, Well-Insulated Building Envelope for Finn Hill Junior High

Fife, Wash., December 1, 2010 – The Lake Washington School District in suburban Seattle is building a new public school designed to be 47% more energy efficient than targets set under the U.S. Department of Energy’s EnergyStar® program. The Finn Hill Junior High in Kirkland, Washington, uses Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) from Premier Building Systems for a more airtight and well-insulated structure than typical school construction methods.

The school design by Mahlum Architects includes 6-inch-thick SIP walls and 10-inch-thick SIP roof. The SIP panels arrive at the job-site in large, ready-to-install sections, which helps reduce gaps and air leakage in the finished building. Continuous insulation throughout each panel’s height, depth and width further protects against heat loss.

The SIP panels will help the school district reduce energy costs, and allow for smaller, more cost-effective mechanical systems. Reducing heating and cooling consumption was critical for the building’s “net-zero energy ready” design, meaning that the potential area for the roof-mounted solar panels is sufficient to power all the school’s needs. The school will open with one of the largest solar panel installations in the state.

“Every aspect of the design and construction must be considered in an integrated way when energy conservation goals are so ambitious,” says Anjali Grant, AIA, LEED AP, Project Architect. “Utilizing SIP panels not only supported the strategies for energy savings, it allowed for a smooth and rapid assembly process, shaving weeks off a tight construction schedule,” adds Mitch Kent, AIA, Project Manager with Mahlum.

The new Finn Hill Junior High is a single-story, approximately 120,000-square-foot building replacing an existing school located on the same site. It is designed to serve 600 students, plus 150 students in an “Environmental Adventure School” located within the building. The school will include space for core academic instruction, special education, fine arts, technology, physical education, library and commons.

In collaboration with the design team, Mahlum Architects designed the school to an energy consumption target of 25 kBTU per square foot per year, compared to an EnergyStar™ Target Finder average energy use of 47.3 kBTU per square foot per year – a 47% improvement. By comparison, older schools in the Seattle area consume upwards of 88 kBTU per square foot per year, making the Finn Hill Junior High approximately 70% more energy efficient than older buildings.

The new Finn Hill Junior High complies with the Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol of the State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Finn Hill Junior High Project Summary

  • Location: Kirkland, Washington (Seattle area)
  • Building size: 120,000 square feet (approx.)
  • Structural Insulated Panel area (walls and roof): 200,000 square feet (approx.)
  • Project status: Under construction
  • Scheduled opening: Fall 2011
  • Funding source: 2006 school district bond measure
  • Design Team: Mahlum Architects, Seattle; Arup (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Telecom), Seattle; Cascade Design Collaborative (Landscape), Seattle; Coughlin Porter Lundeen (Civil, Structural), Seattle
  • General Contractor: Babbit Neuman Construction, Steilacoom, Wash.
  • SIP Manufacturer: Premier Building Systems, Fife, Wash.

About Premier Building Systems

Premier Building Systems leads the construction industry in the research, development and manufacturing of high-performance, energy-efficient structural insulated panels (SIPs) and related materials. The company is a leader in working with design professionals, contractors and code officials on innovative SIPs applications. For more information about Premier’s products and services, call (800) 275-7086 or visit

About Mahlum Architects

Founded in 1938, Mahlum is a firm of 90 people with offices in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. The firm is committed to creating enduring architecture that enriches the human experience.

About Babbit Neuman Construction

Babbit Neuman Construction Company was founded in 1999 by Scott Babbit and Rick Neuman. After twenty years in the commercial construction industry, they teamed their expertise with an outstanding group of individuals whose knowledge and integrity matched their own. The company’s expertise is with concrete and wood-framed projects, with a focus on commercial buildings and institutional work, including schools and security facilities.