Center for Energy Efficient Design Project

CEED Project

The Center for Energy Efficient Design (CEED), a Franklin County Public School located in Rocky Mount, Virginia and designed and built by Structures Design/Build, is unlike any other school in the nation. Designed and built according to Passive House (or Passivhaus) standards, the world’s highest standards in energy efficient construction, the CEED serves as a hands-on education facility to teach students and the community about green building technologies. The school also serves as a template for residential and commercial construction for the future, educating homeowners, builders and remodelers on how they can apply the techniques to their own projects. 

The school was originally designed by Adam Cohen, co-owner of Structures Design/Build, as a low energy, earth sheltered project. While researching low energy buildings, Cohen came across German founded Passive House design, which reduces energy consumption of buildings by up to 90 percent and achieves overall energy savings of 60-70 percent, according to the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS). After learning about this highly efficient building technique, Cohen underwent training to become one of approximately 150 certified Passive House designers in the United States, and at the same time redesigned the CEED to meet the rigorous standards. The redesign did more than enhance the build, Cohen discovered that it would save the school district approximately $26,000 overall and 33 percent more energy, for a total reduction of 94 percent heating and cooling energy and 78 percent on overall energy.

“At the time of development, there were no U.S. made windows that met Passive House standards, but Ply Gem was more than willing to work with us to help meet the recommended performance criteria,” said Cohen.

To help seal the building envelope, Ply Gem Windows provided casement, awning and fixed windows with specially designed glass. The Ply Gem Windows R-5 Series was customized with a triple-pane HP UltraSH glass system that combines two panes of multi-layered vacuum-deposition, Low-ESH (solar heating) insulating glass with an interior glass substrate and two insulating chambers of krypton gas. While argon gas is a typical window insulator because it’s much denser than air, krypton is almost twice as dense as argon, resulting in a thicker layer of insulation. The resulting insulating glass unit U-factors exceed 0.21 in operating units and 0.19 for fixed units.

The frame of the window incorporates R-Core® insulation, made of high-density solid-polyurethane for even distribution of the maximum insulating barrier, while a high-performing Warm Edge spacer system flexes with expansion and contraction to help ensure a strong seal for the life of the window. The spacer design reduces thermal transfer around the glass perimeter by utilizing a unique U-shaped channel to separate glass panes and to interrupt the natural flow of heat to cold. Additionally, the projecting casement and awning windows help promote long-term air tightness.

To educate others in the community and across the nation about the effectiveness of using these energy efficient building techniques and materials, energy-saving data from the building will be monitored and tracked on the center’s website. The school plans to sell the extra energy back to the local energy company.

For more information, please visit:

CEED Website
Passive House Institute US