Blue Heron Elementary School Achieves LEED Silver Certification

Blue Heron Elementary School Achieves LEED Silver Certification

On March 13, the USGBC awarded LEED Silver Certification to Blue Heron Elementary School under v4.

Blue Heron Elementary School, located in Frederick County, Maryland, is GWWO's first project to achieve certification under LEED v4, a point-based rating system to evaluate efficient green buildings. Blue Heron received 50 points related to Integrative Process, Location and Transportation, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovation, and Regional Priority Credits.

With location and sustainability opportunities in mind, Blue Heron offers spaces that were designed for joint use with the community and for emphasizing the important relationship between buildings and ecosystems. While the classroom corridors are evocative of and inspired by the nearby lake that spans across the surrounding communities, they were also designed to protect the nearby sensitive ecosystems through thoughtful site design. Reduced grading and earth-moving efforts were made by nestling the two-story classroom wing into the existing hillside, ensuring long-term stability through rainwater management and reduced impervious surfaces. Additionally, the facility reduces water consumption through strategies including low-flow plumbing fixtures.

Buildings with good indoor environmental quality protect the health and comfort of occupants through design decisions to utilize environmental factors that positively influence the way people learn, work, and live. Blue Heron was designed with a high energy-efficient heating and cooling system that conserves resources and reduces the building’s environmental impact and features low-VOC emitting materials and finishes that do not release significant pollutants and chemicals.

Additionally, large windows throughout the school allow for maximum daylighting and an indoor/outdoor connection, ultimately promoting productivity and comfort of students and faculty. LED lighting is also used throughout, helping to reduce energy. Optimized controls, such as vacancy detection, provide further sustainability benefits and enhance the functionality of the school.

Encouraging alternatives to private automobile use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Blue Heron features a main entrance, with bike storage out front, that enhances safety and serves students who walk, bike, or arrive by car along with priority parking for green vehicles.

When building Blue Heron, a construction waste management program reduced waste sent to landfills by 76%. Further, the project promotes resource efficiency by using recycled and recyclable content for building materials.

“Success in LEED and green building design is best accomplished through an integrative design process that prioritizes cost-effectiveness over both the short and long terms and engages all project team members in discovering beneficial interrelationships and synergies between systems and components. By integrating technical and living systems, the team can achieve high levels of building performance, human performance, and environmental benefits.”


Blue Heron Elementary School was designed with safety and technology in mind to ensure students learn and grow in a secure yet innovative environment. With our in-house sustainability specialist, a LEED Accredited Professional, facilitating the process, all design decisions were consciously made to create a building that embraces the ever-changing features and strategies that best enhance the environment—both inside and out—starting with an educational space that fosters creativity and growth at the heart of it.