Wind, Sun Sustain School Addition

Oct. 24, 2007

Emeryville, Calif. - September 12, 2007 - Taking advantage of the school's bayside location, Ratcliff designed an innovative classroom addition for Windrush School that will be 96-percent-more energy efficient than a comparable school building, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star system. This equates to energy savings of approximately $10,000 per year for the school. An official groundbreaking ceremony for the new 14,000-square-foot classroom wing took place on Sept. 12.

The total annual energy cost for an average building of the same size would be $10,570, whereas the new Windrush structure's annual energy bill will be approximately $500. Photovoltaic panels along with an innovative building envelope combine to create these remarkable savings.

Reinforcing Windrush School's mission of instilling a strong sense of environmental responsibility in their students, this new structure seeks to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® Silver rating. The classroom building will likely be the first LEED project in the city of El Cerrito.

The new wing will add seven classrooms and a library to the school in the fall of 2008. Ratcliff has integrated sustainable features into all aspects of the design, including:

- A visually-appealing building roof that combines photovoltaic panels, green planters, and skylights for the classrooms below

- Naturally ventilated and cooled classrooms with operable windows and skylights, allowing breezes from the San Francisco Bay to do the work of mechanical air-conditioners

- Bioretention planters that reduce storm water runoff and cleanse and treat the remaining storm water before it enters the City system

- Sustainable interior finishes such as low volatile organic compound (VOC) emitting paint, countertops, and ceiling tiles, and durable window roller shades made of the first "cradle to cradle" shade cloth

- Insulated concrete forms with a high level of fly ash in the concrete mix

- Landscaping selected according to's "Bay Friendly Landscaping" principles of drought-tolerant plant varieties that attract a variety of local bird and insect species

"We view this new building as a living laboratory for the entire El Cerrito community," says Ilana Kaufman, the Windrush Head of School. "Ratcliff's cutting-edge classroom design takes advantage of the natural elements of light and air and will inspire an integrated math, science, and humanities curriculum. As our students interact with the new building, it will serve as both a textbook and a life book." 

The Windrush School construction project will include renovation of the existing gymnasium to improve circulation and access to natural light; site circulation and wheelchair accessibility improvements throughout the campus; and a new outdoor plaza. Ratcliff completed a facilities master plan for Windrush School in 2002 to coincide with the development of the school's strategic plan. Subsequent design phases will include a new library, performing arts space, and additional classrooms and related outdoor spaces.

"Windrush School's commitment to the environment began in the master plan phase and is reflected in the comprehensive sustainable design of this classroom building," said Dan Wetherell, AIA, principal of Ratcliff. 

Headquartered in Emeryville, CA, Ratcliff is a third-generation architectural, consulting, and interiors firm. The firm's K-12 academic projects include master plans for Athenian School in Danville, CA; The Seven Hills School in Walnut Creek, CA; and Prospect Sierra School in El Cerrito, CA. With a staff of 75 design professionals, Ratcliff offers a broad range of services for academic, healthcare, and civic clients throughout the Western United States. Visit for more information.

Contact: Mary E. Tressel, Tressel Communications, [email protected], 925-798-9421,

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of I+S Design, create an account today!