Hares Hill School Sustainability Initiative

Hares Hill School Sustainable Design
ZERO Greenhouse Gases = All Electric + 100% Sola

The School District is the one of the largest single combined energy user in the Phoenixville Boro, East Pikeland and Schuylkill Twp. This school may last 100 years, and over that time, our school district’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions will be contributing to the climate crisis. We can design a sustainable school with energy use zero GHG emissions by installing 100% Solar and Heat Pumps.

100 % Solar Electricity

The school’s roof area will accommodate an 880 kW of ballasted solar array on a flat roof. The school’s estimated 960,000 kWh/yr. electric usage (with a gas boiler, ugh) will be met by a 750 kW array. The cost estimate for this 750 kW system is:

Funding: Tax Free Bond
750,000w x $3.00/w = $2.250M
 minus 20% cash credit from Inflation Reduction Act 

Funding: Taxable Bond or Cash
750,000w x $3.00/w = $2.250M
 minus 20% cash credit from Inflation Reduction Act 

What’s the problem?

The current design has evolved through the East Pikeland Twp. Design Guidelines planning process to include four separate pitched barn roof sections, providing maybe 20% on 3 south facing roofs. No ground mounted solar has been included. This contrasts with a solar ready flat, cool roof with a commercial TPO membrane guaranteed for 30 years. Even if we can’t afford the solar within this construction project, the flat roof is a solar ready roof designed for the future.

Proposed “Hares Hill Starship” Roof

  • Powered by our star — The Sun!
  • Estimated cost for flat roof – $1M less than pitched roof.
  • Roof included in BASE BID, white roof membrane to be commercial TPO membrane.
  • Generates 100%+ renewable with future installation at any time in the future.
  • The 880 kW shown will cost about $2.50 x watt x 8,800,000 watt = $ 2.2M minus 40% cash credit from Inflation Reduction Act = $1.3M
  • Reduce energy cost due to less conditioned due to less building volume, less heat/cooling losses.
  • Very small known electric bill for 30 years!
  • Significant savings to school on electricity bill from Day One
  • Stability in electricity bill and insulation from future rate increases
  • Environmental benefits and establishes Phoenixville Area School District as an environmental leader.
  • Educational opportunities for students, especially in STEM

Current “Hares Hill Barn” Roof

  • Budget constraints may require residential asphalt shingles to be bid as ALTERNATE. 
  • Generates 18%-25% renewable with NO future expansion possible due to pitched roofs.
  • Solar will be bid as an ALTERNATE and not purchased due to school budget constraints.
  • Extra energy costs to operate in future due to increased building volume, heat/cooling losses
  • Vulnerability to future rate increases in energy costs from purchased electric power and natural gas costs.


The email letter was sent to Dear PASD Administration and School Board Members on May 7th, 2023. The email reports on a break-through opportunity on the redesign of the not solar-ready pitched roof to the solar-ready flat roof design advocated by the the Phoenixville Green TeamPhoenixville Area Transition  and residents’ advocacy for a sustainable school design to include All Electric + 100% Solar = ZERO GHGs

May, 7, 2023

To: PASD BOARD, Alan Fegley, Ken Gibson:
Subject: Hares Hill School_100% solar with a Flat Roof_Why is school district building a Pitched Roof

Dear PASD Administration and School Board Members:

The Green Team and Transition made a presentation at the East Pikeland Twp Supervisors meeting last week, May 2. Our presentation included:

Our presentation was met with a lot of agreement. Most importantly, the Supervisors and the Chairman and Vice Chair of the Planning Commission indicated they did not request, nor require the pitched roof. They were supportive of changes, as long as they are  consistent with the East Pikeland Twp Design Guidelines to achieve 100% solar.

 If the Township is OK with a flat roof and the exterior elevations can be modified with acceptable enhanced pent / mansard / parapet architecture, would the New Building Committee support a flat solar-ready roof and 100% Solar PV?

 Checkout some of the great looking schools that our architect David Schraeder firm designed. We have one of the best in the business, we can do better than a pitched roof.

With 100% renewable electric energy eliminating any fossil fuel, this school will incur zero costs for fuel and will emit zero greenhouse gas emissions-forever.  

Given the support of the East Pikeland Township Supervisors and Planning Commission, we request that the School Board direct the New Building Committee to pursue the answers to some very basic questions:

1. Does anything prevent the design of the school to include a flat solar-ready roof which can utilize its 83,000 SF (almost 2 acres!) to provide 100% renewable electricity for the school?

2. Does anything prevent the School from selecting air source heat pumps to design for a future with ZERO GREENHOUSE GAS energy emissions? We can have the Hares Hill School be All Electric + 100% Solar = ZERO GHGs!

3. Board Members called for the administration to document the reasons for the significant decisions associated with the building’s design. We applaud the idea. Now is the time to publish this record and give the public a greater understanding of the decision-making process. If we know more, we can learn and understand more.

4. The last update of the Hares Hill Property, showing the School Design, was a February 16 NEW BUILDING COMMITTEEUpdate Presentation. The public needs to get a look at their $70M investment to understand the plans BEFORE we develop Construction Documents.

5. Will the School Board schedule a community meeting to present the School  District design and to listen to the general public at a reasonably scheduled time, with a robust publication of the event?

We stay committed to our advocacy, to the continuation of our learning, and to the conversation and collaboration with the School Board and New Building Committee to develop a Sustainable Design for the Future for the Hares Hill Elementary School. 

We are in a planetary crisis. There is no new normal coming!
Be hopeful and create your legacy with action today.

PASD Residents for a 
Hares Hill Elementary School Sustainable Design


The following shows the status of the recommendations from the sustainability advocates, starting in December 2022. Recommendations that have rejected or not addressed are crossed out. None of the sustainability items suggested by advocates have been integrated into the design, except solar. However, the current solar array on the roof, and carport canopies are the most expensive and will not be in the BASE BID. They will be bid as an ALTERNATE and will most certainly, not be purchased due to school budget constraints. The extra $1+M pitched roof, if included, is not a solar-ready roof and will almost certainly not ever be installed.

COMMENTS – Go beyond minimum standard of “code compliant”
1. State energy efficiency goals and targets.
2. Pursue passive house standards for envelope, glazing and HVAC systems design.

>>>>>>>>Design does include Code++++ insulation.  R40 Roof and R36 walls, Nice job PASD Team!
3. Utilize energy modeling to evaluate “maximum energy efficiency” vs. “code compliant” design.
4. Utilize life cycle analysis to evaluate a better building envelope resulting in greater comfort, smaller mechanical equipment, reduced renewable energy production requirements and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
ALL-ELECTRIC FACILITY                                     GRADE:  FAILING

COMMENTS – Get the gas out to reduce greenhouse gas emission
1. Include all-electrical mechanical systems for HVAC, hot water and cooking. Eliminate natural gas.
2. Design renewable energy powered HVAC systems including horizontal loop ground-source geothermal paired with VRF heat pump design to allow for heat recovery and simultaneous heat and cooling without additional energy use. 
Now that geothermal is not possible, switch it up to air source heat pumps and don’t forget the cost savings and student safety with Dedicated Outside Air / heat recovery systems
3. Include a Life Cycle Cost Analysis showing renewable energy production in relationship to and “Maximize Energy Efficiency and “All Electric Design” criteria
RENEWABLE ENERGY POWERED                          GRADE:   C- >>>>B!!!

COMMENTS – Good start, need to work harder to get closer to 100%
1. Design solar PV arrays on all available rooftops. Try to work it out the roof issue with East Pikeland – We have almost 2 acres that can make it 100% with 750 kW on a flat roof. We can do better than barn!
2. Add ground mounted array(s) on 29 acre property to include pollinator and bird nesting habitats to increase biodiversity on site.
Nice job provisioning for ground mount out to the playing field. Let’s ask the DEP about locating the array on the remediated land along Rt 23.
3. Add solar carport canopies / EV charging into design and bid as alternative. Include conduit in base bid from electric utility room for future installation.
Nice job on adding canopies on Bus Loop lot. Remember you are paying twice as much or more for canopies than the flat roof top arrays. Easy does it with 750kW on the flat roof and no objections about the parking lot canopy appearance!
4. Include renewable energy horizontal loop ground-source geothermal system.
5. Analyze relationship between “all electric design” and ” renewable energy powered”.
We need to know we are good at math. Will all electric (= no gas boiler = heat pumps) powered by 100% electric be more cost effective than current design. Make sure with check with the Finance Director to include the price of buying electricity from the grid v solar for the next 30+ year. Remember he will be looking for the cheapest (= dirtiest GHG electcity ) to do his job, yikes!

COMMENTS – We can reduce our schools carbon footprint!
1. Provide greenhouse gas emissions analysis showing all electric vs gas boiler.
2. Include plan for greenhouse gas minimization for materials and construction.

Hares Hill Elementary School Design