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Country's First "Net-Zero" Energy School Opens In Coppell

COPPELL (CBSDFW.COM) - It may look like any normal school building, but it is anything but.

Coppell ISD opened the doors to Lee Elementary this year, as the country's first "net-zero" energy school.

"Net-zero" means the school will produce as much energy as it uses, so its net energy consumption equals zero!

While kids are busy making the grades, the building itself is making just about everything else . It harvests daylight so students can see, recaptures water on rainy days to irrigate the soil and flush the toilets, collects electricity through wind turbines.

"I've never seen a school like this that's so fancy. It's very, very beautiful," says fifth grader, Sanskar Singh.

First year principal Chantel Kastrounis takes CBS 11 on a tour of the school, showing off everything but the classrooms. She says traditional classrooms don't exist here.

"We call them spaces, and so our designers utilize the spaces based on the needs. So it could be how they arrange the furniture to how they use the materials or how they even use the walls," she explained.

Thanks to special paint, learning happens on walls, windows, and all over the place. The furniture is made to move around and it does. The configurations change as often as the lessons in a school built to create more energy than it uses.

"Everything from the carpet, to the paint, to the materials in the walls, all contribute to the sustainability and the green component of this building," said Coppell ISD Assistant Superintendent Sid Grant.

The building, a 21-million dollar investment, is expected to pay for itself in eight to ten years. More than 500 kindergarten through 5th grade students make up the inaugural group at Lee Elementary. There's room for 200 more, which should arrive in the next couple of years.

"What they're learning in this building carries on to them at home and in life, and so I think they have an opportunity to really think about learning on the long term and being life-long learners," expressed Kastrounis.

The assistant superintendent says with continued growth in the district, more schools like this are possible in the next three to five years.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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