London

London high school to become Canada's first carbon neutral school

John Paul II Catholic Secondary School in London, Ont., is set to undergo a complete retrofit to become Canada’s first carbon neutral school, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to near zero.

Construction will begin this summer for the project set to be completed in 2021

John Paul II students, from left to right: Zach Cadorna, 15, Lewis Roseberry, 16, Sarah Befor, 16, Desiree Prudhomme, 16, and Ievana Joseph Philip, 16. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

John Paul II Catholic Secondary School in London, Ont., is set to undergo a complete retrofit to become Canada's first carbon neutral school, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to near zero.

The $9.7 million project will replace old systems with innovative ones including a geothermal field, solar panel covered roof and electric vehicle charging station. The catholic school board will also introduce a curriculum about the changes.

Many students are already excited to lead the way for climate change.

"This is our home and we can't live anywhere else. To go green [means] we keep our planet … not only for us but for future generations," said 16-year-old Sarah Bedor.

This rendering shows solar panels covering the roof of the school. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

"It shows that even though we're teenagers we can still make this kind of impact," added 16-year-old Lewis Roseberry.

What it would look like

The federal government announced it would invest $4.8 million into the project. The Catholic school board is set to foot the remainder of the bill through installments over a 20-year period.

The idea for the project came about five years ago when staff were considering replacing old equipment at the 25-year-old school.

"We might as well replace them with new technology and green technology than the old technology," said Jacquie Davison, superintendent of business for the catholic school board.

This rendering shows charging stations at the school. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

The new design will include:

  • Geothermal heating and cooling system that will feature 50,000 feet of drilled piping
  • 2,300 solar panels that cover the roof and carports
  • An energy microgrid that will include an electrical energy storage system
  • 2 electric vehicle charging stations

The changes would almost completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions related to energy for heating, cooling and electricity purposes. This would remove more than 270 tonnes of carbon on an annual basis.

This rendering shows solar panels cover carports in the parking lot of the school. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Lead the way for others

The pilot project is set to pave the way for other schools to hop on board the green changes.

Davison said the school board is already in early talks about retrofitting Regina Mundi Catholic College, a secondary school on Wellington Road.

Students are adamant the changes at their school will result in a domino effect.

"I think this will set an example of what can be done in order to help improve our environment," said 15-year-old Zach Cadorna.

Drawings on climate change by students at John Paul II. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

"As a teen, I think this is amazing. Younger people are starting to understand and know about [climate change] and soon people younger than us will know about it," said Ievana Joseph Philip, 16.

Sarah Bedor, 16, said she wants others to recognize the impact students can have on the environment.

"It's so empowering and I love it. I truly love it," she said "Adolescents … can make change with no problem. All they need is support."