Phoenix Coding Academy – Breaking Education Boundaries and Being Green About It

Written By: Laurel Kruke, Sustainability Manager

To celebrate Earth Day, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Green Schools Committee hosted a tour of the Phoenix Coding Academy, a new, small specialty high school in the Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD). Opened to students for the first time in August 2016, the Phoenix Coding Academy is focused on providing students a high school education with a course load heavy on technology innovation and computer coding. With the Valley becoming a hub for technology companies (Intel, GoDaddy, General Motors, and Honeywell already have offices prominently located in the area), the PUHSD administration wanted to provide students with the opportunity to learn and become career-ready for jobs in this industry. Students of the Phoenix Coding Academy will take a traditional high school course load of math, English, social studies, and science, with technology and computer science concepts are embedded throughout the curriculum, and students begin learning the basics early on in freshman year. By their senior year, they will have completed the requirements to apply for entry-level positions in the technology industry. The school also features a “maker space” lab, where students develop their own projects and have the opportunity to connect with industry leaders and educators alike for mentoring and guidance.

Now for the green initiatives! The Phoenix Coding Academy was awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification for the innovative energy efficiency, water efficiency, and indoor air quality initiatives that were integrated at the site. ADM Group was the architect for the project, and they worked closely with the administration at the school and in the district to ensure the project met all the educational requirements and achieved the points necessary to apply for LEED. There are abundant natural lighting opportunities throughout the spaces, allowing the school to rely less on artificial lighting. Energy efficient systems were installed in the building, which were estimated to make the building 47% more efficient than their baseline calculations (Jenifer Weskalnies, an architect on the project who joined us for the tour, noted that a year after construction was complete, ADM Group did a review and the building is right on track, showing  greater than 45% energy efficiency than their baseline calculations). The design and construction team used recycled products and materials throughout the project and left the masonry blocks visible on the interior walls to highlight the material. There is also a sustainability kiosk in the front office for guests, staff, and students to view and interact with the sustainability programs, data, and initiatives in the school.

Thanks to Principal Seth Beute, English teacher Gina Vullo, and the students who joined us for the tour for sharing their experiences at the new Academy! The Phoenix Coding Academy has won a number of sustainability awards for their building, including the 2017 Arizona Leader Award at the USGBC Heavy Medals Luncheon for a Green Schools project, an honorable mention for the 2016 Best Education Project at the Arizona Real Estate & Development RED Awards, and the 2016 Honor Award for the American Council of Engineering Companies of Arizona, among others. Congratulations to the teachers, administration, and students who are doing amazing things for technology and innovation education, and striving to be kind to the environment by doing it in a LEED Certified school!