Laguna Blanca School Unveils Eco-Friendly Parking Plaza

- Santa Barbara, California, US

Laguna Blanca School Board of Trustees, faculty, and supporters gathered at the Hope Ranch campus to unveil the school’s new environmentally-friendly parking plaza. The transformation of the area began just after graduation in June, and is now open, just in time for the first day of school on Wednesday, September 4. Construction was led by Schipper Construction, KBZ Architects, Stonemark Construction Management, and Earthform Design.

Laguna Blanca’s parking plaza will be a showcase for environmentally responsible development on campus. In partnership with the County and the Hope Ranch community, the school worked hard to design a space that incorporates earth-friendly elements. “This parking plaza is probably the most environmentally advanced application of green design and construction techniques in Santa Barbara County, perhaps even the state,” says an enthusiastic Don Donaldson, Principal Engineer at Penfield and Smith, who led the engineering on the project.

Sustainable design features of new parking plaza

  • Cutting edge pervious concrete surface and permeable pavers at parking stalls along with use of bioswales to increase on-site storm water infiltration and reduce or eliminate pollution before it leaves the site.
  • Instead of using traditional black asphalt paving materials that absorb and then emit solar heat, pavements and walkways are light-colored to reduce heat island effect by increasing reflectivity of the surfaces. Additionally, existing and new tree canopies provide increased shading of the parking surfaces, further reducing heat island effects.
  • Lighting fixtures mitigate night sky pollution; low level site lights have motion sensors that reduce light levels when walkways are not in use. Light fixtures use high-efficiency LED light sources to reduce energy.
  • 10% of parking spaces are designated for clean air, vanpool, or electric vehicles.
  • Installation of 57 new trees, and drought tolerant shrubs and ground covers that complement the existing native species and canopies on and adjacent to the site.
  • High-efficiency irrigation systems (e.g. drip) and controls to maximize irrigation to the tree and planting root systems and minimize water loss to evaporation.
    Wastewater Advanced Treatment System (ATS) to collect and treat the gymnasium’s wastewater so it can be used to irrigate athletic fields. Installation of additional piping for upper campus to connect to the system during future phases.

Laguna Blanca School received a generous leadership gift, specifically for this project, from Alison Wrigley Rusack and Geoffrey C. Rusack, which is the single largest capital improvement donation to the school in its 80-year history. The Rusacks have been an active and generous force in the Laguna Blanca School community for over 15 years. Both Geoff and Alison have served on the school’s Board of Trustees and in the role of Board Chair. Their generous gift was directed towards the completion of the parking area that surrounds Merovick Gymnasium and the athletic complex. This single gift, combined with generous gifts from the community over the past few years, has given the school the funds needed to transform the area into an eco-friendly parking plaza.

“The completion of this new parking plaza is incredibly important to the Laguna Blanca School’s 80-year history and future legacy,” says Tom Pickett, Board Chair. “Under the terms of our approved Master Campus Improvement Plan with the City and County of Santa Barbara, our school was required to complete the parking plaza construction before other renovations can be made to the Hope Ranch campus. The Rusacks’ gift is the catalyst for the school to pursue further renovations and improvements.”

As part of Laguna Blanca School’s 80th anniversary celebrations, there will be a “Birthday Party” during Homecoming Weekend on October 19, where the school will recognize and honor all those who helped support the parking lot’s eco-friendly renovation.


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