EEA Assistant Secretary for Renewable Energy
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Perkins School for the Blind has always been a first mover – it was founded in 1829 as the nation’s first school for the visually impaired, and continues to provide education and services to help nearly145,000 blind, deaf blind or visually impaired children and adults in the U.S. and more than 63 countries worldwide lead productive, meaningful lives. Nearly 200 day and residential students attend classes on the Watertown campus, and Perkins teachers work with about 750 children in Massachusetts, including babies and public school students.
Perkins has complemented its national leadership in providing education to the visually impaired with leadership in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The Perkins Board of Trustees voted in 2009 to renovate the 100-year-old Lower School, including the construction of a new 55,000-square foot building that would serve elementary through middle school students.
Perkins’ visionary President, Steven Rothstein, explained the school’s decision to embark on a significant construction project: “When this building was built 100 years ago, it was state-of-the-art and it has served its students supremely well. As the leader in our field, Perkins has the responsibility to plan for the next 100 years. And we mean that and take that responsibility very seriously. It’s our duty to do it right.”
I recently participated in the dedication for the new Perkins lower school building on the 182nd anniversary of Perkins’ founding, and toured the facility to learn about the impressive list of state-of- the- art features the new building contains. The school is on track to earn Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. It is more accessible and safer for students and contains larger classrooms and hallways bathed in natural daylight provided by clerestories, large windows, and light shelves.
The building will reduce water use by 50 percent from baseline, and features sun shading, special glass, Energy Star appliances, and energy saving HVAC and lighting to reduce energy use and costs and minimize negative impacts on the environment. It also uses recycled materials where possible and carpets that meet Green Label standards. The 1,000-square-foot green roof reduces heat island effect and also contains a 180-panel, 34 kilowatt solar array. More than 150 tons of construction waste will be reused or recycled, and 90 percent of non-hazardous waste was reused, recycled, or salvaged. The project also created 50 fulltime jobs and more than 300 jobs during construction. Boston architects Miller Dyer Spears (MDS) designed the new building and Shawmut Design & Construction of Boston managed the construction.
The school’s brand new auditorium was filled to capacity during the dedication with a very inspiring community of students, teachers, and administrators who are continuing the Perkins tradition of leading by example and with much to be proud of.
The photo above is of me and Andy Brydges, program director at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, (far left) and architect Myron Miller of Miller Dyer Spears Inc.