About

Sustainability

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
― John Muir

We are educating citizens of the world and as such, our students appreciate nature, value our natural resources, and understand the importance of protecting our environment. So important are these issues that our Board of Trustees adopted a series of "Guiding Principles of Sustainabiity" that have been used to guide and shape our new construction projects and adaptations to our curriculum. 

"In our pursuit of a sustainable future, we seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge, linking long-term sustainable considerations with ethical responsibility, and reestablishing the integral relationship between natural processes and human activity."

Sustainability At-A-Glance

Ecoliteracy

We create a culture of sustainability, extending the principles of social and emotional intelligence to include knowledge of and empathy for all living systems. We embed these principles in our curriculum. Students develop awareness of and concern for the natural world through our Connections program, Humanities I that relvoves around how geography shapes culture, environmentally-oriented classes such as Literature of the Environmental Movement and Environmental Science, Exploratory courses revolving around food and the garden, our Student Sustainability Leadership group, and our Intersession and Outings options, Students also learn how to evaluate issues and design solutions, whether through scientific and design principles or activism and advocacy.

Our Built Environment

All spaces in our school are learning environments. When they are filled with natural daylight, have good ventilation, and are built with healthy, sustainably-produced materials, students learn better, teachers have a greater sense of satisfaction, and the wellbeing of all is increased.

In designing the Janet Durgin Guild & Commons Building, we had the opportunity to utilize reclaimed wood ithroughout the space as well as locally-sourced, tamped earth construction blocks, which use 50% less carbon than concrete. We also avoided us of all Red List toxins. In order to accomplish this, every single material used in construction had to be vetted and, often, alternatives had to be found. 

Energy Efficiency

Carbon-Neutral Electricty
Between the solar panel arrays powering our campus, and the remaining electricity we purchase with Evergreen through Sonoma Clean Power, we are 100% carbon-neutral for our electricity needs.

Additionally, the G&C building is a Net Zero Energy building, using no power at all from the grid. Solar panels turn sunlight into electricity, a living roof insulates the building and supports pollinators, the lights are all efficient LED's, and the building is fossil fuel-free.

Geoexchange System
The G&C uses a geoexchange system to provide both hot and cold water for the building. This pioneering technology absorbs and utilizes heat stored naturally in groundwater. There are twenty‐nine 490 foot‐deep wells onsite. Water used to drive the system is recirculated through these wells. Through a very complex heat exchanger, the heat is extracted from the water to provide domestic hot water and hydronic heating through the floors, and also in unique ceiling tile. In a reversal process, cold water is produced to run through the hydronic system to cool the rooms when needed. The Geoexchange system much more efficient than a traditional water heater or HVAC system. 
 

Water Conservation

Water is one of our most precious resources. We not only look for every drop of water we can avoid using, but for every opportunity to use graywater and to harvest rainwater.

The Janet Durgin Guild & Commons includes a sophisticated irrigation system that uses plants to filter reclaimed greywater from the kitchen sinks to water the surrounding gardens, as well as a rainwater catchment system.

Additionally, installation of the Ziemer Athletic Turf Field in 2015 allowed us to reduce our water consumption by 50%, saving 2 million gallons of water per year.

Food & Food Systems

There is nothing more central to any community than its food. Proving and eating good, healthy food that is produced as sustainably as possible—including the use of organic and local products whenever we can—is a central tenant of our Commons Food program. We also incoporate produce from our organic teaching garden into the daily lunch offerings in the Commons. But just as important as the quality of the food we eat is having a deep understanding of the traditions, cultures, and food systems from which our food comes. We utilize the teaching kitchen to learn about food preparation, culture, and nutrition.


Waste Not

We believe wasting is a waste! There is no waste in a natural world.

Earthology leads the way for our students to eliminate waste and turn the materials we no longer need or use into useful resources. Along the way, we:
  • Reduce upstream purchases, including less packaging, and replace non-natural products with natural ones.
  • Reuse materials as long as possible.
  • Recycle, and make it easy to do.
  • Rot (compost). We turn organic waste into nutrients for the earth. 

Awards & Accolades

The Janet Durgin Guild & Commons building was completed in October 2017. Designed by leading architectural firm WRNS Studio in San Francisco, and built by XL Construction in Silicon Valley, the building has gained quite a bit of attention for its beautiful and deeply sustainable design. To date, the Guild & Commons has been awareded the following:
 
  • LEED v3 Platinum, Living Building Challenge and WELL Building Standard Education Pilot benchmarks. It is the first project in Sonoma County and one of only a few nationwide to simultaneously reach these benchmarks.
  • 2019 Business Environmental Award by Acterra, a Palo Alto-based sustainability focused nonprofit.
  • The Long View Award(Achievement in Sustainable Design. This new award marries sustainable design with the IIDA (International Interior Design Award) Northern CA Chapter theme for 2019 - “Design for the Future."
  • A 2018 Beyond Green™ Honor Award, First Place in the High-Performance Buildings Category from The National Institute of Building Sciences went to Sonoma Academy for its new Janet Durgin Guild & Commons facility in Santa Rosa, California. The Honor Award, First Place for the High-Performance Buildings category.
  • WRNS Studio has won the Regional Excellence Wood Design Award for the Sonoma Academy’s Janet Durgin Guild and Commons project! The project will also be featured in WoodWorks’ Wood Design Award video and the hardcover book, “Celebrating Excellence in Wood Architecture 2018-2019,” to be published next November.
  • 2018 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment—Top Ten Award
  • 2018 AIA California Council Leading Edge Award for Design Excellence and Sustainability
  • 2018 AIA San Francisco Design Awards – Citation
  • Building Design + Construction magazine’s 2018 Building Team Awards  - Honorable Mention
  • World Architectural News. One of 6 projects worldwide recognized for sustainability, November 2018
  • WRNS Studio was named the top architectural firm in the US in 2018 by the Journal of the American Institute of Architects where the Janet Durgin Guild and Commons was sighted as one of their three outstanding buildings.
  • 2017 California Zero Net Energy School Award — Team Leadership

Sonoma Academy Is...

Sonoma Academy is the only private, independent, college preparatory high school in Sonoma County. On our beautiful campus nestled at the base of Taylor Mountain in Southeastern Santa Rosa, our students are able to explore their interests and passions in a rigorous and inspiring environment that develops a lifelong love of learning and prepares them for college and beyond.