Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton

As project architect with WRNS Studio, Joel Baumgardner was instrumental in bringing this 75,000 sf, 10-acre campus to completion from beginning to end.  Four new buildings house grades 1 through 8 in 30 classrooms plus 2 science rooms, an art room, a new library, 5 performing arts classrooms, a multipurpose room to hold all students and staff, and an administration wing.  Existing school buildings were recycled and new sports fields were located in their place.


Site and Building Water

The project includes extensive storm water treatment and retention, 15 times more stringent than most projects.  Rain water is captured for landscape irrigation and greywater is treated for reuse to flush toilets and also for irrigation.


All buildings have highly insulated wall assemblies with exterior layers of rigid insulation throughout as well as high performance glazing.  All classrooms count on natural cross ventilation and ceiling fans to reduce the reliance mechanical systems.  When needed the highly efficient variable refrigerant volume HVAC system first exchanges heat between different parts of the buildings before activating the heat pumps.  All of these features mean that the campus is designed around efficiency first; passive measures acting initially, followed by active but less intensive measures such as ceiling fans and heat exchange, and then as a last step energy is used for climate control when needed.  The roofs are designed for installation of additional photovoltaic panels to make the entire campus net positive.


Net Positive Library

The library has additional photovoltaic panels for renewable energy generation, enough to make it a net positive energy generator.  In fact, the Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton Lower and Middle School Library is the first net zero library in the United States as recognized by the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge – Net Zero Energy Building Certification.  The energy usage and water reuse systems are shown in real time on a touch screen dashboard inside the Library.


Interior Environment

All classrooms are designed to exceed LEED for Schools indoor air quality and acoustic requirements to provide an ideal learning environment.  Lighting is even and highly efficient.  Daylight is abundant.



Materials are durable and long lasting.  In many locations recycled or reclaimed materials were used not only to reduce impact on the environment but also as teaching opportunities.  The Library and Administration reception desks, as well as many built in benches were made from reclaimed wood, reused from the site.  Permanent displays explain the reuse process.