What is the most efficient way to make a large building net zero? 


Four 8th grade students from Aspen Middle School decided to take a research paper and use that information to bring solar energy to the Aspen School District. Through guidance from their teachers, they created AMSolar.

Aspen Middle School (AMS) currently spends $30,000 a year on electric utility costs and produces about 400,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. However, the building is set up to have solar panels on the roof.

So why does this matter? 

Bringing solar panels to the Aspen Middle school will allow the building to produce an excess of electricity, which will offset costs and bring the energy back into the power grid. For these 8th graders, the goal for this solar project is to eliminate carbon dioxide waste, bring more renewable sources of energy into the Aspen community, and to give back the money spent on utility costs back to their district's teachers and staff. 

Who we are

Riley Dunn, 8th Grade: I have lived here all my life. I have always had enjoyed skiing but this year the conditions were terrible and the reason is Global Warming. So  I wanted to be a part of something that would help end it.

Jack Fox, 8th Grade: I have lived here for most of my life. Renewable energy has always been an interest of mine and I´ve always wanted to make a positive impact on this community.

Luca Matheny, 8th Grade: I was born in California and when I was little my family and I had done a lot of moving around since. Climate change is very important to me and joining this group seemed to be the best way to act on that urge.  

Samuel Vesey, 8th Grade: I moved Aspen from Norwich England around 3.5 years ago. I joined the solar group because I wanted to help positively change the environment and increase teachers salaries.

Conversations, Research & Grants

October 2017 - Contacted the grants manager, Marty Treadwell at CORE (Community Office of Research Efficiency) to get an estimated cost on the project and a list of grants to apply for. 

November 2017 - Took a tour of the Rocky Mountain Institute

December 2017 - Met with Tom Heald, ASD Assistant Superintendent, and John Maloy, ASD Superindendent to discuss the project. 

January 2018 - Follow up meeting with Mary Treadwell from CORE

February 2018 - Attended at board meeting at McKinstry Engineering

March 2018 - Submitted a grant request to Aspen Ski Co. & presented in front of the Aspen School Board

April 2018 - Conversations with Aspen Education Foundation began to team up and help fundraise. 

About the building: Aspen Middle School

The Aspen Middle School enhances the Aspen School District’s emphasis on creative classroom learning, outdoor education, and environmental responsibility by replacing an aging and inefficient existing middle school. The clarity of the plan unifies the school campus and creates an appropriate setting for learning, teaching and exploration. Students, teachers and administrators benefit from a more efficient, comfortable and stimulating environment that includes ample day-lighting, improved ventilation, new efficient building and technology systems, better access and security, and views & spaces that connect the building’s users to the surrounding mountain landscape.

Natural light, views and operable windows are provided to all educational spaces. Window openings and sunshade devices respond to the solar orientation, and create a distinctive aesthetic. Wherever possible, sustainable, green materials such as bamboo, recycled content flooring and ceiling tiles are incorporated into the design. In many instances cabinets from the old facility were reused in the new building while all new casework was formaldehyde free. Interior materials use low VOC paints, finishes and adhesives. High efficiency mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems integrate innovative products and techniques such as solar air heating, waterless urinals, occupancy sensors and solar tubes make this the most energy efficient classroom building on the school campus. These strategies result in reducing almost 1 million pounds of CO2 per year, reduce water usage by 40% and reduce amount of storm water runoff by 25%. These contribute to the buildings Gold LEED Certification.

2009 AIA Colorado West Merit Award

2009 Architectural Record Schools of the 21st Century Award

2009 Colorado Sustainable Design Award

2008 American School & University Magazine Citation Award

2008 AIA Colorado Citation Award

Studio B Architects - Aspen, Colorado