Hawaii’s new Ewa Makai Middle School, which opened in January, has already exceeded lofty environmental sustainability expectations and could save the Department of Education as much as $22,000 per year in utility costs.

The department announced on Friday that Ewa Makai received Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for its energy-efficient construction and environmentally friendly design — a step higher than the Silver certification expected.

The middle school is equipped with an air conditioning system that works with day lighting to conserve energy. Contractors were also required to use green materials, include special control for storm water runoff, and test for material emissions before students moved into the building. Its energy efficiency has the potential to save the department up to $22,000 per year in utilities. That’s a boon to a department that earlier this year predicted it would cost $1.5 billion to air condition all of Hawaii’s public school campuses.

The 175,900-square-foot campus in Ewa Beach cost $64.8 million to build and is one of the first single-structure schools in Hawaii. But more like it are in the planning stage in anticipation of rapid population growth on the west side of Oahu.

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