Case Study: Zero Energy

NeoCity Academy STEM School

School District of Osceola CountyKissimmee, Florida

Florida's First Zero Energy School

NeoCity Academy, located in Kissimmee, Florida, houses some of the best and brightest STEM students in Osceola County. The Academy's mission is to develop students who believe the world can be a better place and that they can be the ones to make it happen. The design of NeoCity Academy is in alignment with this mission.

The Challenges

  • Increase student's cognitive ability without increasing energy usage
  • Provide a zero energy building without geothermal
  • Design a zero energy building in a challenging climate zone
  • Increase outside air flow 30% above code minimum
Created with Sketch.

This project provided substantial operational cost avoidance, allowing limited and precious operating dollars to be shifted to other areas. Created with Sketch.

Marc Clinch

Chief Facilities Officer - School District of Osceola County

The Solutions

To increase NeoCity Academy’s ability to succeed in their STEM mission, CMTA designed the Academy STEM School building to be Zero Energy and meet rigorous WELL Building design standards. Both of these achievements are firsts for the state of Florida.

The building design increases student performance by utilizing strategies that are supported by data to contribute to student success. The building features wellness strategies for both HVAC and lighting. NeoCity Academy includes plentiful outside air ventilation in learning spaces to control peak carbon dioxide levels and increase student’s cognitive ability. Conditioning this outside air comes with an energy impact. Through innovative design, CMTA was able to fit this increased outside air into a zero-energy design. The lighting design includes both daylighting and LED light fixtures. This design supports alertness during the day and is in alignment with students' natural circadian rhythm.

Geothermal is usually the best option for a zero-energy design. Soil conditions, however, were not ideal for a geothermal wellfield at the project location. CMTA overcame this challenge by taking less efficient equipment and designing the control strategies to make it fit into the zero-energy design. 

Controlling the indoor climate is a very important factor in achieving a zero-energy building. NeoCity Academy was built in one of the most hot and humid climates in the U.S. Demand control ventilation was utilized to reduce the amount of cooling and dehumidification necessary for outdoor airflow. By delivering outside air directly where the occupants are, CMTA was able to maintain increased airflow without expending excess energy while maintaining appropriate temperature and humidity levels.

The project team's first goal was to minimize the energy consumption of the building to an EUI of 20.3, significantly below the county’s other schools. Due to the building's 3-story design, the available roof area to mount the PV panels was rather small. Since the roof was not large enough to mount all the panels, the dining and food truck canopies were also integrated with PV panels on those roofs.

Phillip Donovan, AIA, Project Architect with Little Diversified Architects, said of CMTA; “CMTA masterfully led the client through the evaluation and selection of a new type of mechanical system. Through expertise, data collection and a trade-off process, the team met the project goals while making the client very comfortable with the change.”

Collaborative Student Works Space

The “Mixer” is a large two-story area located adjacent to the entry that makes the building feel like it belongs more on a college campus. The space allows for social interaction and is inviting for group studies or just a place to relax and enjoy the outdoor views. The glass wall faces south and is shaded by a tall outdoor canopy that provides plenty of great natural light into the space without contributing heat. The Mixer area also adjoins a covered outdoor patio to allow students to venture outside the building and enjoy fresh air throughout the day.

The Results

CMTA was honored to be a part of the NeoCity Academy project. Our knowledge delivered a project that increases student’s ability to learn and will outperform all other schools in Florida. The mix of traditional systems with new technology helped bring this performance to reality, without a premium in first cost or energy usage.

This project is designed to be Zero Energy. The solar power system is expected to generate 365 kWh of energy while only consuming 346 kWh, making it Florida’s first Zero Energy building.

NeoCity Academy Energy Consumption vs. Production

What does this data mean?
Consumption: Energy used by the building
Production: Energy generated by the building