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4832 Highland Ave.

Downers Grove, IL 60515

7:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Monday to Friday

St. Joseph School Net-Zero Energy Program

St. Joseph School has been working toward accomplishing our Net-Zero Energy Building Goals!

Key sustainable features include:

  • 110 solar panels with an estimated annual output of 42,435 kWH, enough to produce 100% of the building’s electricity
  • High-performance thermal envelope characterized by R41.7 roof insulation and R34.5 wall insulation
  • Energy-efficient mechanicals designed with separate systems for thermal control and ventilation. Building temperature is controlled by a heat pump system while an isolated system provides continuous ventilation with energy recovery.
  • Water-efficient plumbing fixtures with touchless controls.
  • LED, dimmable, occupancy-controlled lighting
  • R6.7 insulated, low-emissivity glass
  • Indoor and outdoor plantings
  • Natural lighting via windows or skylights in occupied spaces, corridors and stairways
  • Operable windows for natural ventilation
  • Fixed, exterior sunshades
  • Durable masonry and steel construction
  • Recycled steel structure and reclaimed fly ash concrete foundation walls
  • Recycled ceiling and wall tiles and toilet partitions
  • Construction waste management
  • No VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, stains, sealers or adhesives
  • Reduced material usage by polishing concrete floor slabs and exposed construction in corridors
  • Reclaimed landscape from previously paved areas including a new outdoor classroom
  • Stormwater “rain chain” irrigation of entrance planter
  • Accessible design enhanced building commissioning
  • Interpretive signage and displays that describe sustainable features

What is a Net-Zero Energy Building?

A Net-Zero Energy building generates 100% of the energy it consumes on an annual basis through on-site renewable energy.

Through a combination of creating renewable energy with our solar panels while reducing our energy demands allows our school addition to operate efficiently enough to meet this goal! This commitment to energy efficiency and sustainable energy production will reduce the greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere, helping to preserve the ozone layer and prevent further global warming. Additional efforts were made in areas such as insulation, wall construction, window installation, window shade structures, lighting, HVAC and more.

The costs to construct in sustainable ways are recouped through energy savings over a relatively short period of time.

More information can be found at www.energy.gov 


Energy & Atmosphere

During the design process of the school addition, the architect and engineers collaborated to create a virtual model of the building using software that helps predict energy usage. The model accounts for factors such as weather, number of people occupying our school at different times of the year, building insulation, number and type of windows, lighting and controls, and heating/cooling equipment. The building addition was constructed to minimize the energy consumption in every way possible, such as using “cool roofing”, continuous and robust insulation, and locating most windows on the south façade to invite controlled natural light while limiting western windows to avoid overheating from afternoon sunlight. Daylighting techniques such as these have been proven to enhance student performance.


How We Reduce Energy Use

The building was constructed with LED energy efficient lighting and smart sensors to automatically control the system. The occupancy sensors detect the presence (or lack) of people in a space. If people are not detected after a short period of time, the lights will automatically turn off. This lighting can also be dimmed by occupants when the natural light from windows provides adequate illumination for a room. The building was constructed with energy efficient windows that bring in natural lighting to our spaces. Plants have been added both outside the building and within. Adding these elements helps improve air quality and have been shown to improve both the physical and mental health of building occupants. Indoor plants in our school reduce indoor air pollutants and help to minimize noise in the area. In addition to the plants providing benefit to the students, natural light is abundant in this area through the  rooftop skylight. The upper floor corridor is open to the lower level allowing the natural light to cascade down the east wall. Sensors and dimming controls allow for a reduction in energy used depending on the amount of light that is naturally occurring in the space.

All-electric HVAC equipment powered by roof top photovoltaic array services a building addition that is “net zero” in its energy usage and is operationally “carbon neutral”, that is it does not contribute greenhouse gasses to our atmosphere from fuel combustion. Thermal comfort is provided by an “air to air” heat pump system that can be individually controlled in each space. Healthy, filtered air is continuously provided to occupants by a separate  ventilation system with a “enthalpy wheel” to reclaim energy from exhausted stale air.


How We Produce Energy

The rooftop solar array project at our school produces equal or greater energy than what we use, it helps the environment and occupant health by not burning fossil fuels, and provides limited emergency power in case of a power outage. Photovoltaic panel racks are mounted on the roof and secured in place with weighted ballasts. They are slightly sloped to shield rain and snow and positioned to remain in focus of the sun’s lighting.

Beyond the cost saving on campus electricity bills and the promotion of sustainable energy, our solar installation provides new learning opportunities for students. Studying, calculating, and forecasting the effect of energy production and consumption enhances the Science and Math curriculums. Students are using the data from the on-site solar energy system to see firsthand the impact of renewable energy on their daily life.

St. Joseph School’s energy production

St. Joseph School’s energy consumption


Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation Net-Zero Building Grant

St. Joseph School was fortunate to be a recipient of an important Net-Zero Energy grant through the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. The project was approved for up to $1 million in grant funds and has already received $600,000. The net-zero building program includes buildings that, at a minimum, oset all of their energy consumption with on-site generation from renewable resources. The goal is to encourage exemplary buildings that bring together beautiful design and careful construction to maximize energy efficiency, showcase renewable energy and, by educating the public and professionals, help pave the way for a larger shift in the building sector. The Foundation aims to fund projects that demonstrate that net zero energy buildings are realistic and achievable. The Net-Zero Energy Building program funds project costs and building components related to maximizing energy efficiency and self-generation. The grant was also used to help defray a portion of the costs associated with certification, measurement and verification, and  educational displays and signage. As the first PHIUS+, “net-zero” private school in Illinois, our addition was a pioneering test of volunteers monitoring, managing and mentoring user habits to reduce energy consumption that could then be oset by renewable onsite solar energy production. As a result our school addition will add to the knowledge base on net zero building design, construction and operation for current students, parish families, and the broader community of visitors to our campus.

The project team & St. Joseph School Community are working to fine tune the systems while reducing consumption to secure the final $400,000 in grant funds.