Rocky Mountain PBS Features Cuningham Project: Sierra Grande PK-12 School for its Innovation in Regenerative Design

Rocky Mountain PBS Features Cuningham Project: Sierra Grande PK-12 School for its Innovation in Regenerative Design

“We all want to be good stewards. We want to be good stewards in our community. We want our kids to understand that process of sustainability and good stewardship. And that's where we're moving towards.”

                                                                               Wendy Fischer, Sierra Grande School District School Board Member


Rocky Mountain PBS selected the first known school in Colorado designed with Passive House principles, Sierra Grande PK-12 School to be featured on Heart of a Building, a Colorado-based television program showcasing state-of-the-art, energy-efficient buildings that out-perform existing code.

As the first known school in Colorado to be designed with Passive House principles—an alternative approach to meeting aggressive energy performance standards that features a super-insulated building envelope and simplified mechanical systems— Sierra Grande PK-12 School is all electric with no fossil fuels used on campus. The school also has lowered maintenance costs and needs—a crucial benefit given the school’s remote location.

"Typically designers approach high-performance buildings with an inherent tendency to make the systems more complicated. And that becomes a real challenge in a location like the San Luis Valley where you’ve got a four-hour drive to get back to Denver to get high tech help to maintain these buildings. But when we have an envelope with this high of quality, it lets our mechanical and electrical partners  minimize and simplify the system to keep the building heated, cooled, ventilated, and lighted."

Paul Hutton

Cuningham - Director of Regenerative Design

Sierra Grande's large windows and skylights let natural light deep into the space and provide views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains.
The school features two different climbing walls: one near the central dining commons (above), and another for the elementary students in an area with a balance beam and sensory wall.

“We're a small district but this is the type of facility you'll see in urban areas in some of the most progressive areas in the state and in the country. We won't settle for anything less and will always strive for excellence. And I think that speaks to the heart of our building and what you see here today as well.”

Walter Roybal

Sierra Grande School District School Board Member/Parent

Stream the full PBS story to learn more about how Cuningham created one of the most energy-efficient schools in all of Colorado.

We believe the Passive House framework is the future of sustainable school design. It is simple to operate, easy to maintain, provides extremely low utility bills, and creates a comfortable environment for learning. 

To learn more about Cuningham's work on Sierra Grande PK-12 or how Passive House could be applied on your next project, connect with Cuningham's Paul Hutton and Kari-elin Mock below. 

SG Video Preview
Stream the full episode on the Rocky Mountain PBS website.






“There was a chance for [Sierra Grande School District] to think about what they really wanted and what this new school might celebrate. [The school] is really a place for community to gather and celebrate the work of the students and what the students are learning.”

Kari-Elin Mock

Cuningham - Executive Director - Grow

"Future-Proof" Your School with the Passive House Framework

There are many challenges to designing a high-efficiency school. Will staff possess the necessary expertise to maintain a high-tech building? Are the new, sustainable systems built to last? 

When these challenges aren’t met, otherwise high-efficiency buildings begin to suffer. Learn how Cuningham “future-proofed” Sierra Grande School against the usual pitfalls of sustainable, high-efficiency buildings by embracing the Passive House framework.

Learn More

Kari-elin Mock

Author: Kari-elin Mock

Posted In: Events, Ideas