The “eco-schoolhouse” was built after an arson fire destroyed a portable classroom at Grant Elementary in Columbia, Missouri. It’s a 21st century one-room schoolhouse nestled behind a century-old main building named for President Ulysses S. Grant. The 1,024 square-foot classroom was designed for platinum certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
Rain barrels irrigate a student garden; reflective/conductive roofing reduces heating and cooling costs; solar panels generate electricity; and students use desks, chairs and tables made from recycled materials. Ultra-economical R-24 insulation buffers fireproof drywall, a subtle reminder of the tragedy—and the community it brought together.
After the fire, parents donated books and educational aids; students made art and decorations; contractors, building suppliers and architect Nick Peckham—whose granddaughter Nora attended Grant—designed and built the schoolhouse, donating what fire insurance wouldn’t cover—about $250,000 in time and materials.
A LEED-certified architect, Peckham says he wanted to help “kick start sustainability awareness’ right down to the corn-based floor tiles. The effort worked. Opened in 2008, the eco-schoolhouse has received statewide accolades.
“The eco-schoolhouse has created a ripple of learning that keeps expanding,” says Grant school principal Beverly Borduin.
Science teachers use it as a living green laboratory, an Eco Club meets in it to plan yearly stream cleanups; and local filmmakers recently wrapped a documentary about it for classrooms nationwide. With the eco-schoolhouse’s energy costs running about 66 cents per square foot per year versus $1.27 to $4.00 for the school district’s other 35 buildings, Peckham says the project is a ray of light “at the end of the sustainability tunnel.”