Sonoma Academy by WRNS Studio Recognized as First Project To Achieve Petal and Zero Carbon Certification From International Living Future Institute

WRNS Studio announces Sonoma Academy Janet Durgin Guild & Commons, Santa Rosa, California, as the first project to achieve both Petal and Zero Carbon Certification by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), also making it the first project to receive Zero Carbon Certification and fourth Petal Certification in California.

The Living Building Challenge is the world’s most ambitious, advanced, and holistic performance standard for green, resilient, and healthy buildings and is comprised of seven performance categories, or ‘Petals’: Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. Petal Certification is awarded to a project that achieves at least three out of the seven total petals – one of which must be either the Energy, Water, or Materials petal. In addition, regardless of completed petals, imperatives “Limits to Growth” and “Inspiration and Education” must be achieved. Meeting the Imperatives of multiple Petals is a significant achievement. For Sonoma Academy, WRNS Studio achieved four Petals – Energy, Materials, Equity, and Beauty.

The Zero Carbon Certification is the first worldwide Zero Carbon third-party certified standard that recognises the growing interest and focus on a broad-based tool for highlighting highly energy efficient buildings that are designed and operated to fully account for their carbon emissions impacts. During a one-year performance period, buildings must achieve a targeted energy efficiency level, and one hundred percent of the project’s energy use must be offset by on- or off-site renewable energy on a net annual basis. The project must also provide offsetting renewables which have the equivalent of fifteen years of project power, provide additionality, have durable ownership integrity associated with the project, and account for the total embodied carbon impact from any new construction and materials through a one-time carbon offset from an approved source.

Pauline Souza, director of sustainability, Partner at WRNS Studio said:

“We were inspired by Sonoma Academy’s request for a design that reflects a just and healthy community approach. Sonoma Academy did just that – and by community they meant the global community.”

She continued:

“Their commitment to an all-electric building, a reclaimed water system for their productive gardens, geoexchange and net positive energy strategy reflects their belief that every act to do better matters and can influence minds, and policies and practices.”

Tucker Foehl, Head of School, Sonoma Academy said:

“The first project to achieve both Petal and Zero Carbon Certification and first Zero Carbon Certification in California is just a remarkable and massive accomplishment.”

WRNS Studio was engaged by Sonoma Academy to update their master plan and to design the second phase of development and the 19,500 ft² Janet Durgin Guild & Commons, completed in 2018. The 34-acre? campus is situated at the base of Taylor Mountain, a prominent regional park and open space preserve distinguished by grassy hillsides, oak woodlands, and creeks. At two-stories, the y-shaped Durgin Guild & Commons nestles into the hillside, utilising the slope to form clear programmatic levels while framing views to downtown Santa Rosa. The landscape supports pathways and habitats by flowing over and around the terraced learning environment.

In two sweeping floors, the building provides the tools for students to become innovators and invites the community to participate in the academic process.

The design team addressed Sonoma Academy’s core values of engagement, wellness, inclusivity, and sustainability by embedding indoor/outdoor learning into the DNA of the new building. The Commons’ generous operable windows pull in sunlight and fresh air while sliding doors allow for the students to spill outside under the patio’s slatted roofs. The Guild incorporates large garage doors opening out onto a patio, garden, and surrounding outdoor teaching areas. The garden acts as classroom, park and gallery in which making with tools, nature, and technology blend. Further reinforcing a nature connection, locally sourced reclaimed wood is integrated throughout — interior walls, farm tables, benches — with more than 80% of the interior spaces having natural light.

Janet Durgin Guild & Commons demonstrates the symbiosis between the school community, the natural environment, and the regional economy. Sonoma County-based craftspeople provided much of the materials, reducing material transportation costs while demonstrating local resourcefulness in the use of low-carbon earth blocks. A farm-to-table program is part of the curriculum and daily life — educating students about equity issues and the environmental impacts of food production and distribution within the regional economy while providing them with healthy meals. The project is designed to be a literal representation of the school’s mission, underscoring the belief that schools can be incubators for unbridled inventiveness and pathways to a more sustainable future.