Students Review Building Design Elements for Effectiveness

| By Lucy, Amelia and Ashleigh - Students of Lincoln High School

Tamanuiterā - Energy, light and heat

The name Wai-Ora, meaning The Living Waters was gifted to us from Taumutu, who have also gifted us the names Te Waimarama and Te wai mātau for other buildings. This building (Wai-Ora) was built in 2016 due to roll growth at Lincoln. The government gave the school the money they needed for the building, but the school board put in some of their own money to upgrade some systems.

Wai-ora viewed from the entrance

We investigated six sustainable materials used in the construction of Wai-Ora:

  • Solar shading
  • LED lighting
  • Acoustic performance
  • Thermomass cladding
  • Roof insulation
  • Heating and ventilation

We surveyed teachers to find out more about the effectiveness of these materials and considered how these technologies could be incorporated into future buildings.

Solar shading is a form of shading that controls and optimises the amount of sunlight and the amount of warmth that is admitted into the room/building. Solar Shading costs around $50-70,000. This design feature is a new technology so there is not a lot of information on it out there yet, but it is basically black metal that attracts the sun and somehow regulates the temperature.

Solar shading on the new building depicting an eel net.

Lincoln High School used solar shading because it increases solar gain in winter which means improved thermal comfort, solar shading has a good environmental story and learning opportunities surrounding it.

The solar shading on the outside of the building has a story that connects the school to the Māori iwi in the area. They gifted us the name Wai-Ora, and the solar shading on the building is supposed to depict an eel net, much like the nets they use to catch the eels in Lake Ellesmere.
We surveyed teachers at Lincoln High and asked how effective they found solar shading. 63.% of those surveyed hadn’t heard or noticed it, so we think that solar shading may not be as effective as it seems. But maybe if we informed more people, they can realise and notice the effects.

LED lighting is more efficient at turning energy into light, and this means that less energy is released as heat, making it a better alternative to incandescent and CFL bulbs. LED lighting costs around $10,000. LEDs are made of compound semiconductor materials, which are made up of materials like gallium arsenide (GaAs) and gallium phosphide (GaP).

After surveying teachers at Lincoln High School 73.7% said that they found the LED lighting effective, which shows that LED lighting would be a good feature for future buildings. Due to energy bills covering the whole site it was difficult for us to see if there are any energy savings.

Acoustic performance is a building feature that reduces noise from external sources and provide sound separation between adjoining rooms. Acoustic performance costs around $8,000/$10,000/$3,000 respectively and the acoustic insulation is made from 100% polyester so it’s safe and non-toxic.

Lincoln High School used acoustic performance in Wai-Ora to reduce sounds coming from other classrooms, so it’s easier for students and teachers to focus on their own work. The architects pushed for a fully open/modern learning style building, but the BoT and our Principal, Mrs Paterson, pushed back to have some closed in classrooms. We think this was beneficial because it means you can have 4 completely separate classrooms but if you wanted to you could have all classrooms open and in use together. We tested the sound intensity in both Wai-Ora and D3, which is our normal science classroom and found that the sound in Wai-Ora both inside and outside sounded similar to D3 but was louder inside D3.

Flexible spaces within the building


Thermomass cladding is roofing and vertical wall cladding used on the outside of buildings. Thermomass cladding costs around $95,000 (+$20-30,000 for architectural finish). Thermomass connectors are designed for the support of structurally composite, load-bearing and cladding concrete sandwich wall panels. The connectors include a structural portion composed of E-CR glass fiber and cured vinyl ester resin.

After surveying teachers, we wondered if thermomass cladding was effective because 73.7% of them haven’t heard or noticed it. This suggests that we need to inform more people about this so they know what thermomass cladding is and can notice its effects. We believe that heating and ventilation may be enough.

Roof insulation is an insulation installed in your roof which can help lower heating bills and help with thermal comfort in buildings. Roof insulation costs around $12,000. Made of 100mm kingspan rather than the 60mm kingspan the school has used in other buildings. After surveying teachers, we found that only 36.8% of teachers who participated in the survey found the roof insulation effective, but no one said that it wasn’t effective, so we think this is a good feature.

Heating and Ventilation is a technology of indoor and vehicular environmental comfort. Its goal is to help provide thermal comfort, for rooms/ buildings. Heating and ventilation costs around $50-70,000. This is an advanced heating and ventilation system that circulates through the whole building, heating it in winter, and cooling it in summer.
We also have several heat pumps throughout the buildings that help to heat and cool certain spaces. (The staff teaching in these rooms feel like they wouldn’t want to be without them).

The majority of the teachers that participated in the survey (73.7%) said that they found the heating and ventilation effective. This shows that this feature would be a good feature for future buildings as it has been one of the most effective features in Wai-Ora. Our principal, Mrs Paterson, also said that she hadn’t had any complaints from teachers about the temperature of these classrooms, as she has with other older classrooms with a less advanced climate control.

We also did a survey of teachers at Lincoln High School to gain ideas for the future. These included:
• Green plant walls- some benefits of using green plant walls is they act as an extra insulation. They also reduce noise levels by reflecting and refracting as well as absorbing acoustic energy.
• Grey water systems – reducing the need for freshwater. Saving on freshwater use can significantly reduce water bills, but also has a broader community benefit in reducing demands on public supply. Reducing the amount of wastewater entering sewers or on-site treatment systems
• Heavy insulated buildings to minimise heating costs
• Solar panels: We believe that solar panels would have been a good investment for this building when it was built because then it would produce its own energy needed, so it would cut down the school’s power bill a little. We also think it would have been a good learning opportunity for students that have classes in the building.

We think we could inform and show teachers, students and caregivers about some of the main design features in Wai-Ora and the environmental story behind Wai-Ora. We could show this by creating an information board that could be placed on a main wall in Wai-Ora that visitors can read as they enter or have power-point or slideshow to explain the features and stories.
A lot of the information we found to be new and interesting and we were surprised at how many features there were, as well as how much thought had gone into the building.
It was quite challenging to get motivated at the start of the project, because we didn’t quite understand what we were trying to figure out and we found it difficult to gather the information.

LHS Wai-Ora report

Banner Photo: Wai-ora, Lincoln High School