Practicing Sustainability Off-Grid: Designing Unique Educational Facilities in the Sandia Mountains of New Mexico

2:15 PM
 3:15 PM


Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is the largest school district in New Mexico, serving 83,000 students at 141 schools across 1,200 square miles. By 2013, Energy & Utilities were costing APS district over $18 million annually. The ongoing escalation of utility/energy demands made their management a top District priority for both fiscal and environmental concerns. Given the wide array of the District’s altitude and geography, serious initiatives were undertaken based on analysis to begin mitigating energy use, as well as incorporating sustainability as a pillar of core APS curriculum function. In 2020, the District completed construction of its first ever off-the-grid facility in the Sandia Mountains at 8,000 ft. This facility serves all 5th graders (4,500 students) as a specialized ecological and out-door learning facility in partnership with New Mexico Museum of Natural History. The facility draws approximately 17,000 people annually to explore, learn, and be trained on mountain ecological methodologies and strategies. Apart from its core function, the District intends to use this facility as learning lab on how to implement and scale up energy conservation, on-site electrical storage, and off-the grid design/operational concepts to the rest of its 15 million square feet of built environment. Learn key design concepts for providing renewable power for an off-grid learning center, integrating sustainable technologies seamlessly, and ensuring core educational components are addressed.

#1: Off-grid energy design components
#2: Out-door learning design components
#3: Sustainable design pilot project components
#4: Applying new technologies seamlessly to traditional educational facilities

Design of Educational Facilities: Acts as a resource to the design team in providing ongoing guidance and support to ensure that the emerging and ultimate design aligns with the established community vision, education goals, future programming, written design standards, best/next practices and education policy.
Kizito Wijenje, AICP, Executive Director, Capital Master Plan, Albuquerque Public Schools
Kizito is the Executive Director of the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) Capital Master Plan (CMP) that guides the expenditure of capital resources of the district including all improvements to buildings, major equipment acquisition, technology and land acquisition. A primary role of the CMP is educational space utilization that ensures that facility designs remain aligned and relevant with both instructional, operational and budgetary realities, as well as the life, health safety and security of our students and educators. The APS capital budget invests over $1.3 billion in capital projects into the local economy of Albuquerque & Bernalillo County NM every 6 years and has major impacts to the build environment, land tenure, transportation patterns and residential trends of the region. Concurrency with local municipalities is critical. Mr. Wijenje holds dual bachelor’s degrees in Economics & Political Science as well a Master’s Degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of NM.

Karen Alarid, AIA, Executive Director, Facilities Design & Construction, Albuquerque Public Schools
Karen is the Executive Director of Albuquerque Public Schools Facilities Design & Construction Department.

David Ritchey, AIA, Staff Architect, Albuquerque Public Schools
David is a staff architect with Albuquerque Public Schools Facilities Design & Construction Department. He was the primary project manager for the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center Off-Grid Facility.

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