Green School Buildings

By Beckrich, Amanda | The Science Teacher, February 2012 | Go to article overview
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Green School Buildings

Beckrich, Amanda, The Science Teacher

School buildings and grounds present an opportunity to educate students about environmental sustainability--and help move your school toward sustainable building practices. As a teacher, you may not be involved in decisions about the new roof or HVAC system, but you can take steps to ensure a healthy and sustainable learning environment. Start by learning more about green school buildings.

LEED for Schools

In 2000, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC; see "On the web") created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system. This certification system measures how a building's design, build, and operations support its occupants' health and save energy, resources, and money. Buildings receive points and different levels of certification (certified, silver, gold, platinum) based on their total points.

The rating system for K-12 schools (LEED for Schools) addresses the uniqueness of school spaces and student health issues and provides a complete tool for schools that want to build green. Intended for use in new buildings, LEED for Schools promotes improved practices in site selection and development, water and energy use, environmentally preferred materials, waste stream management, indoor air quality, innovation in sustainable design, and construction. For details about LEED for Schools, explore the USGBC's Center for Green Schools website (see "On the web").

Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., makes environmental stewardship a priority. The campus's green centerpiece is the middle school building, the first K-12 LEED Platinum building in the United States. Take a virtual tour of the building and see real-time and historical building data such as energy and water consumption on the school's website (see "On the web").

Though new construction of green buildings may be possible for hundreds of American schools, making existing buildings more sustainable is within reach of thousands of schools. The USGBC has a Green Existing Schools Toolkit to help plan these transformations and earn LEED for Existing Buildings certification (see "On the web"). The downloadable Green Existing Schools Project Management Guide takes school teams through the step-by-step process of certification. This is an excellent resource for teachers, staff, and administrators considering changes to existing buildings.

The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) reviews LEED applications and provides feedback (see "On the web").

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