Solar Powers Unique High School

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Most people attended high school in utilitarian, run-of-the-mill buildings. But students at Green Dot Amino High School in south Los Angeles are learning in a building whose façade is a striking new landmark in the area—thanks to solar.

The Brooks + Scarpa Architects-designed school is covered in 650 solar panels on its south side, with more on the roof. The panels help the high school meet 75 percent of its energy needs, and it's estimated that solar power will enable Green Dot Amino to offset up to 3 million pounds of carbon emissions during the building's lifespan. The building's exterior is covered with ribbed screens to prevent too much solar gain.

The 53,500-square-foot building near Los Angeles International Airport serves 500 public school students. The architects were inspired by 1950s-era, New Orleans-based architectural firm of Curtis and Davis. That firm used sustainable techniques to give students a comfortable educational environment by adapting its buildings to the Southern climate.

Design elements incorporated at Green Dot Amino include an open-air lobby, and a landscaped courtyard and bleacher-style terraces that bring in natural light and fresh air. It makes for an attractive design while reducing the need for artificial lighting and cutting heating costs.

Brooks + Scarpa, with offices in Los Angeles and North Carolina, has been recognized for its environmentally friendly designs. In 2011, the firm was given two Top Ten Green Building awards from the American Institute of Architects, for Step Up on 5th in Santa Monica and Lofts at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles. The latter also won a Slow Home Award and won in the sustainable category in Metal Magazine's Architectural Awards.

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