+ Sustainable School Buildings? LEED

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It’s almost Earth Day.

In T.H.E. Journal, freelance writers Timothy Prentiss and Lenny Giteck write about schools that are implementing environmental and sustainable innovations. 

Prentiss spoke with Wendy Rogers, a design principal at the architectural firm LPA in Irvine California.  She  is also an Accredited Professional at LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. 

Rogers works closely with the US Green Building Council (USGBC)  and speaks with districts and civic organizations throughout California, helping them plan and design green schools.

One of the US Green Building Council’s primary goals in its Green School Campaign is helping students to understand how their environmental school has been constructed or modified. 

The LEED for Schools certification program even offers a credit for green innovation.

USGBC’s Green Schools characteristics:

  • Conserve energy and natural resources
  • Save taxpayer money
  • Improve indoor air quality
  • Remove toxic materials from places where children learn and play
  • Employ daylighting strategies and improve classroom acoustics
  • Employ sustainable purchasing and green cleaning practices
  • Improve environmental literacy in students
  • Decrease the burden on municipal water and wastewater treatment
  • Encourage waste management efforts to benefit the local community and region
  • Conserve fresh drinking water and help manage storm water runoff
  • Encourage recycling
  • Promote habitat protection
  • Reduce demand on local landfills

According to Anisa Baldwin Metzger, manager of USGBC’s LEED Green Schools fellowship program, “In effect, the school itself becomes a wonderful teaching tool on the subject of sustainability.”

As part of the Adlai E. Stevenson High School’s LEED initiative, an innovative educational program called NET ZERO Classroom has been implemented. 

The project is an advanced environmental sciences class for select students in their senior year.  Students will create and run a completely energy self-sufficient classroom.

Stevenson’s sustainable features include a small array of solar panels that generate electricity and heat water for the classroom.  The science teacher behind the project is the school’s sustainability coordinator, Dave Wilms

Wilms has made a special effort to get students involved with the district’s green committee and to ensure the science curriculum includes topics that relate to the environment and sustainability.

One student at Stevenson is carrying out a study on LED lighting in order to determine the impact of changing all the athletic-field lights to the new bulbs. 

A sustainability consultant advising Stevenson, Marya Graff, explains 

They’ve installed a sample fixture and are going to monitor the energy usage and light output.  The student will write a report about it — and based on the findings, the school may consider a widespread lighting retrofit. 

What makes a school green?  LEED is the brainchild and handiwork of the US Green Building Council, a nonprofit founded in 1998.  The LEED program offers a rigorous certification process for buildings, whether new or retrofits, as they work to meet high environmental standards in design, construction, operations and maintenance.

The Green Schools Campaign is working to bring more K-12 schools into the certification process.  A Green Campus Campaign is working toward similar goals for higher education as well.

According to the USGBC website (July 2010), there were more than 300 LEED certified schools and another 1700 registered LEED school projects.

Anisa Baldwin Metzger manages the LEED Green Schools fellowship program.  Certain things are unique to this program.

For example, some modifications have been made for transportation credits a school can earn with regards to busing.  Also, there are prerequisite credits — meaning they’re required on every school project — for the buildings’ acoustics, which are essential for creating a quiet space conducive to learning.  In terms of lighting credits, school lights need to be adjustable for regular classroom levels and when audiovisual equipment is being used.

The program actively promotes the use of technology to heighten building inhabitants’ awareness of environmental issues.  For example, if an up-to-date building automation system (BAS) is installed, personnel can closely monitor energy use and performance of devices (air conditioners, heating systems, fans, lights).

Metzger explains

You can either hook right into the system at the school or you can look at it remotely.  These systems are capable of communication alerts to whoever is monitoring the school building.

According to Wendy Rogers, some schools have red lights and green lights on their windows — so students see them and know that something needs to be turned off.

One school in California has wind odometers attached to the building.  When a storm is coming in, that measurement is recoded by software in the environmental sciences lab so students can  monitor the information.

Visit USGBC at http://www.usgbc.org/   For the Green Schools Campaign:  http://www.greenschoolbuildings.org/Homepage.aspx

Sole source: http://www.thejournal.com article on April 6, 2011, prepared and written by Timothy Prentiss and Lenny Giteck.  Prentiss is a Chicago based freelance writer and online content producer who blogs at iPhonelife.com.  Writer Lenny Giteck is based in Las Vegas.

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021  or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

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