Sussex School

Progressive School in Missoula MT

Sussex School is an independent, K-8 school that has been providing a creative, student-centered curriculum in Missoula, MT, since 1970. Its mission is to challenge and nurture students, so they become "confident, enthusiastic learners and caring participants in their local and global communities."

Sussex is ranked among the top 50 private elementary schools in the United States. In 2008, the school needed two new classroom buildings to continue and enhance its commitment to educational excellence.

Sussex constructed 4,500- and 3,500-square-foot buildings that house a science lab, seven classrooms and a kitchen for students and staff.

Outdoor learning and the natural world are among Sussex' guiding educational principles, and community engagement is a core mission.

It was logical, then, that eco-consciousness became a key design criterion for the expansion.

The efficient design will create hands-on learning opportunities for Sussex students and for the greater community of students in Montana. New curriculum and associated lessons will be based on concepts such as energy conservation, emissions reduction, water and wastewater usage, recycling and reuse of building materials.

- Sussex School

Working closely with its architect, Sussex incorporated a number of environmentally friendly technologies and materials, including solar panels, locally sourced wood, solar tubes and radiant heat into the new buildings.

R-Control SIPs were chosen for their superior insulation and airtightness. 

The classroom building envelopes feature 8-1/4" R-Control SIP walls, with an R-value of 31.6, and 12-1/4" SIP roofs, with an R-Value of 48.3.

Blower door tests, conducted just prior to the buildings' completion in October 2010, showed 0.6 air changes per hour (ACH) at 50 Pascals of pressure. That equates to about 455 cubic feet per minute (CFM).

The test report said Sussex' new buildings "reached the infiltration levels required by the most stringent voluntary building energy efficiency guidelines in the country, US Passive House."

Reduction of air leakage and infiltration is an important benefit of using SIPs. U.S. government studies have demonstrated that SIP structures lose 90% less air than conventionally framed buildings. In addition to saving energy, this allows for more modestly sized HVAC equipment.

Ayers-Gaddy Construction, the general contractor on the job, likes SIPs for the speed factor when the design calls for an advanced wall system.

Highly insulated, airtight walls require a thicker assembly. In cold climates, there's an accompanying risk of future moisture issues. SIPs are a simple solution to that problem, according to Will Gaddy, because they combine the whole assembly in one solid panel.

Gaddy has completed a number of jobs with SIPs, and likes to use the team at Big Sky:

"We've always had a great experience with Big Sky. We've never had any panels show up wrong, any issues with fitment, or any differences from the CAD drawings. They've got a really thorough process."

Sussex' buildings ultimately achieved LEED-Gold certification. They were the first LEED-certified school buildings in the state of Montana.

The school has seen substantial benefit from the project, including amazingly low utility bills. Average daily gas costs from December 2011 and 2012 were just $8.34 and $7.22, respectively.

Construction of this 'green' building affirms our school’s core values of conservation, education and environmental stewardship, and demonstrates the benefits of the eco-conscious design.

- Sussex School