A second school in the Green Schoolhouse Series of volunteer-built schools for low-income communities broke ground this morning in Phoenix. The new 6,000-sq-ft structure is being added to the existing Orangewood School campus near 19th and Glendale avenues, and will be built solely by volunteers with materials donated by a variety of industry companies.

Designed to achieve LEED-Platinum certification upon completion, the new school for the Washington Elementary School District will be devoted to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, but will also be a teaching tool in itself to demonstrate to students and the community the values of sustainable design.

“Orangewood is thrilled to break ground on what promises to be the most amazing green experience for our students, staff, parents and community,” says Andree Charlson, the school’s principal.

The new building was designed by Phoenix-based Emc2 Group Architects Planners PC, while construction is being overseen by Kitchell, also of Phoenix. Engineering firms Heideman Associates, Larson Engineering and Olsson Associates worked on the innovative green design, which includes classroom space and an indoor/outdoor amphitheater.

Just a few examples of the manufacturer-donated sustainable materials include a rainwater harvesting system from BRAE, high-efficiency windows provided by Pella Windows and Doors, sustainable restrooms donated by Sloan and Excel Dryer Inc. and no-VOC paint from Glidden Professional.

“Despite coming out of one of the worst economic times in the history of our country, we’re able to find some very willing partners to make a difference and make a statement to do something good for the community,” says Marshall Zotara, co-founder of Cause and Effect Evolutions, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based firm that began the Green Schoolhouse Series and is leading the organizing, project management and public relations for the many corporations and construction industry firms donating their workforce, materials and money.

As the new school breaks ground, volunteers are still hard at work building the Green Schoolhouse Series’ first school, Safari at Roadrunner Elementary School, also in the Washington school district in north Phoenix. Scheduled to open in September, Safari was designed by Stantec and built by Hensel Phelps Construction Co., both out of their Phoenix offices.

Safari is pursuing LEED Platinum, and is additionally expected to achieve net-zero energy use through innovative features such as a chilled beam cooling system – a new product being used in the Sonoran Desert for the first time on this project, says Alex Bertolini, project manager with Hensel Phelps. “We get to play with the newest and most interesting systems out there,” he adds.

Hensel Phelps used building information modeling extensively, despite the project’s modest 6,300-sq-ft size. “Even on a small job, modeling saves time,” Bertolini says, adding that BIM helped tremendously with planning under the job’s short time frame and all-volunteer workforce.

One of those volunteers is semi-retired carpenter John Hall, who says he’s spent more than 100 hours on the jobsite so far and has enjoyed learning about the new systems being incorporated into the state-of-the-art school building, such as the insulated concrete-formed walls.

The two Phoenix schools are the first in a planned ongoing series of donated green schools built for Title-1, low-income public school campuses across the U.S. After a third Phoenix-area groundbreaking, the series will move on to California for the next three buildings.

“It is amazing to see the community and corporate America collaborate to transform learning for these public schools,” Zotara says, adding that the buildings will benefit the surrounding communities as well.