Creekside Community High School, Oregon

Tetra Tech’s High Performance Buildings Group performed an energy analysis, designed the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems using an integrated approach, and prepared the lighting design for the newly remodeled Creekside Community High School in Tigard, Oregon.


  • Size: 18,000 square feet
  • Construction Cost: $6,017,535
  • Client/Owner: Tigard Community School District
  • Architect: Bora Architects
  • Contractor: TS Gray Construction
  • Completion Date: 2019

Creekside Community High School, formerly known as the Durham Education Center—the Tigard-Tualatin School District’s center for students requiring a non-traditional path toward completing their education—has long resided in an aging schoolhouse wedged just off the driveway leading toward Tigard High School. But the School District has changed that. With the completion of Creekside’s newest addition, the facility will achieve net zero energy, generating enough power on-site to offset the energy needs of the building.

Designing for net zero energy is often misunderstood as a costly process requiring complex systems design. However, cost can be mitigated by reducing small amounts of energy from each system (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and lighting) until the need is manageable using an on-site supply. The design team worked together early in the project to optimize the geometry of the building for passive design elements such has abundant natural daylighting and natural ventilation, and to allow the photovoltaic (PV) panels to directly attach to a southern facing standing seam metal roof, packing the panels close together and maximizing the capacity of the available roof area. This resulted in a 30 percent reduction in first costs for the PV array by eliminating the racking systems entirely and simplifying the structure supporting the array.

The PV system plays a large role in the facility reaching its net zero energy goal (the array is expected to produce as much as 148,000 kilowatt hours per year, easily exceeding the amount needed to power the school). With every corner of the school’s mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and lighting system optimized to reduce and reuse its own energy, the size of the array was reduced to fit on the rooftop and not exceed initial budgets.

An old adage pertaining to energy states, “Buildings don’t use energy. People do.” Net zero energy isn’t achieved by the building alone—it requires end users to participate. In a K-12 setting like Creekside, this creates a learning opportunity for students. A digital dashboard prominently displayed in the common area offers real-time insights into the school’s energy usage and demonstrate to students how the systems function and how their actions directly improve the building’s performance. The goal is to reframe how students view their building and socialize energy usage.

While the return on investment on a net zero energy project should be a priority, the keystone goal of the design was to refresh the possibilities of what lies ahead for the students. Facilitating that kind of community stewardship is what leads these projects to meeting the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit.

Images courtesy of Portland Drone