Study by Institute for the Built Environment Reveals Cost Effectiveness, Energy Efficiency, and Positive Human Impact of Green Schools

A report released today by the Institute for the Built Environment details a research study conducted on a national sample of 12 green schools and illustrates the positive impacts of green school design.  The schools participating in the study were designed with sustainability in mind, but had not been evaluated for the design effectiveness or the long-term impact on operations.  Cost and utility data were collected for each sample school and compared to national and regional benchmarks.  In addition, teachers and maintenance staff at each school were questioned to identify common perceptions and observations.  Key results included:

  • Responses to the occupant survey indicate that green school facilities have a positive impact on occupants. Respondents were enthusiastic about their green school with the majority perceiving positive effects on student health, achievement, and behavior.
  • Cost analysis rebuts the common perception that higher design and construction costs must be incurred to build green schools. The majority of green schools in the sample were built below the regional median cost for schools built in the same year.
  • In energy performance, the sample operated above the ENERGY STAR national median, with a sample mean score of 81. A rating of 81 indicates that a building is operating in the top 19th percentile, or better than 81% of similar buildings nationwide. In addition, eight of the schools met or exceeded the Architecture 2030 Challenge 2012 targets for Energy Use Intensity (EUI).
  • Finally, through interviews with facility managers, we confirmed that the buildings’ efficiency is also illustrated through perceived efficiencies in the daily operation and maintenance of the facilities.
The study was commissioned by DLR Group, an integrated design firm with offices across the United States.  This study was pursued in order to evaluate high performance building metrics and to measure the effectiveness of design. The execution of this study is part of a firm-wide effort to evaluate and advance the performance of their designs.
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Red Hawk Elementary School celebrates LEED Gold

Red Hawk Elementary School in the St. Vrain Valley School District has earned LEED Gold certification established by the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute.

The Institute for the Built Environment at CSU coordinated the LEED work on the project. Elliot Dale, a CSU graduate student in construction management and an IBE intern, worked on the project with April Wackerman, IBE projects manager.

Recognized for sustainability

Located at 1500 Telleen Avenue in Erie, the new 74,600 square foot elementary school is recognized for its extremely low energy and water use, outstanding natural daylighting techniques, healthy regional and recycled-content materials, and exceptional integration of sustainable principles into its existing academic curriculum.

The LEED Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED certified schools save money for taxpayers, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to a healthier environment for students, staff and the larger community. The strict guidelines for acoustical performance, indoor air quality and daylight result in a facility that will have an abundance of clean air and sunlight and will be free of toxic, unhealthy materials.

“The green building movement offers an unprecedented opportunity to respond to the most-important challenges of our time, including global climate change, dependence on non-sustainable and expensive sources of energy and threats to human health,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, U.S. Green Building Council. “The work of innovative building projects such as Red Hawk Elementary is a fundamental driving force in the green building movement.”

 

Showcases green initiatives

This elementary school showcases St. Vrain Valley School District’s commitment to the education, health, and wellbeing of their children, and will be a model of high performance, stewardship, responsibility and respect.

The project team used an integrated design approach to creatively think how each system and design element would positively contribute to the performance of the building. With this approach, Red Hawk Elementary School achieved many sustainable building milestones including 40 percent less potable indoor water use than a typical school building, 73 percent construction waste diversion, 20 percent recycled content of materials, and 20 percent regional material procurement. Most notably, Red Hawk Elementary School achieved a 57 percent energy cost savings compared with typical elementary schools through progressive design features such as a ground source heating and cooling system, a super insulated building envelope, high efficient lighting fixtures, and abundant daylighting in all occupied spaces. Other sustainable features include low emitting and non-toxic materials, paints and finishes, the development of an educational curriculum incorporating the green features of the building for educational purposes, and the adoption of the Green Stars School waste minimization program. Furthermore, a 50kW solar array is planned to be installed on the school property which will offset 60 percent of the total annual electricity used at Red Hawk Elementary.

“Certified green schools such as Red Hawk quickly become models for the community and for other school districts. And, we’ve seen student performance rise, especially when the students and teachers make connections between their curricula and their unique place as Red Hawk has done,” according to Brian Dunbar, director of the Institute for the Built Environment in the College of Applied Human Sciences at CSU.

Project team

Along with CSU’s Institute for the Built Environment, the project team included RB+B Architects Inc., Shaffer Baucom Engineering, Adolfson and Peterson Construction, The Weidt Group, RJ McNutt & Associates, JVA Consulting Engineers, and The Birdsall Group.


Contact: Tracy Kile-Schwartz
E-mail: tracy.kile_schwartz@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-7525

Kick-Starting Whole-School Sustainability Initiatives in Cheyenne

As part of the 2011 K-12 Building Retrofit and Renewable Energy Demonstration grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Institute for the Built Environment (IBE) was engaged by Laramie County School District #1 (LCSD) to reach beyond the grant’s renewable energy installations in order to influence the integration of whole-school sustainability across the district. Whole-school sustainability is the incorporation of sustainability into all aspects of a school organization, including operations and maintenance, new school design standards, occupant behavior, and educational opportunities. IBE sought to offer recommendations for meaningful changes, provide helpful guidance and resources, and achieve buy-in and ownership with LCSD staff to steward district sustainability into the future.

The final deliverables to LCSD included a Sustainable Operations & Maintenance Manual, Integrated High Performance Design Guidelines, and an Educational Guidebook of teacher and student resources for the integration of sustainability education into classrooms. Reception of these manuals marks a turning point for the school district as they begin to standardize sustainable practices district wide and commit to providing educational opportunities for staff, students, and the community. The development of these resources also reflects a desire from the district to have an integrative approach to building design and operations, one that aligns with their educational mission and evolves to include high performance technologies and strategies. 

Dave Bartlett, Assistant Superintendent of Support Operations for LCSD, shared, “LCSD #1 has been very appreciative of the assistance provided to the District by the Institute for the Built Environment. As a district, we have always had a focus on being stewards of local and state resources with an emphasis toward energy conservation and sustainability. The tools provided to the District will allow us to continue this focus through our routine and major maintenance practices as well as for future capital construction projects. The tools developed for the classroom will also help to educate our students on the topic of sustainability and to emphasize the importance of these practices for a healthy environment today and on into the future.”

Integrated High Performance Design Guidelines 

Triumph High School, Laramie County School District

Drawing upon the experience of the Institute’s experience in sustainable design and construction and the experience of Bill Franzen, consultant and former director of Poudre School District Operations, the team collaborated with LCSD staff to define established best practices and performance standards for design and construction of schools. Stephanie Barr, IBE Green School Specialist, stated; “The purpose of this document is to provide sustainable high performing guidelines for the design, construction and maintenance of energy efficient and environmentally responsible facilities that support the educational mission of the Laramie County School District #1.” The guidelines address a variety of subjects, including Integrated Design Process, Site Planning and Landscape Design, Water Conservation, Renewable and Alternative Energy, Energy Efficient Building Shell, Energy Efficient Systems, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Construction Waste Reduction, Materials and Performance, Safety and Security, Kitchen Operations, and Buildings that Teach. As a living document, these guidelines are intended to evolve as the school district evolves, ever reflecting the communities values for high performance and efficiency.

Sustainable Operations and Maintenance Manual 

To facilitate policy changes and influence decision making in regards to how the individual buildings within the school are operated and maintained, IBE developed a manual which outlines the current operations and maintenance practices used within the school district and identify opportunities for greater efficiency and improved practices. Using the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EB: O&M) rating system as a framework, IBE assessed two school buildings, Alta Vista Elementary and Triumph High School. This assessment identified current practices used within the school district and provided side by side gap comparisons for sustainable best management practices. By highlighting the gaps between current and sustainable operations and maintenance strategies, the district was provided quantifiable improvements and actionable steps for implementing changes toward a more sustainable operating paradigm.

Educational Guidebook 

A primary goal for the set of projects was to increase student, teacher and staff awareness of and engagement in sustainability and renewable energy. To outline goals for integrating sustainability into teaching, learning, and culture of schools within LCSD, a workshop was held to engage teachers in sustainability and utilize the building and renewable energy demonstrations as teaching tools. Responding to the teachers needs for resources, a set of free educational resources were compiled. These resources included lesson plans, informative websites, and provided student-focused information about school sustainability. In addition, a guidebook for student engagement in energy efficient operations was created. This document includes roles and responsibilities for program leaders, outlines key activities, and provides activity sheets.

Fully Integrated and Fully Rooted 

Helping organizations see their path and realize the benefits of sustainably built environments are what we do at IBE. Our mission, to foster stewardship and sustainability of the built and natural environments through interdisciplinary educational forums, is met when engaging with organizations and leading through a project that results in innovation and education. Each resource developed for LCSD is intended to be used to facilitate incremental improvements towards a more sustainable school district. The value of these resources lies not only in the finished product, but also in the process taken to develop them. Stakeholder engagement guided the development of tailored resources and laid a platform of support. As stated by April Wackerman, IBE Projects Manager, “This project is only the beginning. LCSD is primed to begin their unique path to a sustainable, high-performing district.”

"Sustainability in Schools: Why Green Building Has Become a Catalyst"

In February of this year, Stephanie Barr and colleague Craig Schiller presented at the CEFPI (Council of Educational Facilities Planners International) Sustainable Schools Symposium in Tempe Arizona. The presentation centered on research on whole-school sustainability and utilizing the building as a teaching tool. Embedded below is their online presentation. Following this presentation, they were invited to submit an article to the CEFPI Educational Facilities Planner. CEFPI’s flagship publication reaches a diverse population including school and college administrators, school board members, school and college faculty members, facility maintenance and operating personnel, architects, engineers, builders and contractors. Published three times annually, the Planner is read by key decision-makers in the school building business worldwide. The publication follows a simple, straightforward editorial style and offers practical knowledge through case studies, interviews and feature articles.

Written by Stephanie Barr, Brian Dunbar and Craig Schiller, the article, “Sustainability in Schools: Why Green Building Has Become a Catalyst” explores how green school buildings can go beyond an energy efficient, healthy building shell to a dynamic sustainability teaching tool.

With the increase in both green school construction and research linking green schools to healthier students and higher performance and financial return on investment, it is no surprise that green school design practices are quickly becoming standard practice. This is reason for celebration, yet there are still many mountains to climb to achieve holistic sustainability in schools. There is a measure of success that we haven’t fully explored – are green schools actually producing sustainably-driven students? Yes, we want high performing and healthy students, but we also want students to lead a sustainable future, right?

The full article can be viewed online here: http://viewer.epaperflip.com/Viewer.aspx?docid=5b567c47-df15-46a7-8877-a0600118067d#?page=18

Barr, S. & Schiller, C. (2012). Building as a Teaching Tool: Connecting Curriculum, Culture, and The Physical Environment. CEFPI Sustainable Schools Symposium, February 2012. Tempe, AZ

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