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‘Summit’ on Schools Proposes Lofty Goal: A ‘Green’ Revolution

Friday, May 13, 2011

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America’s schools will be “designed, built and operated to be full of clean air and sunlight and free of toxic chemicals” if the ambitious recommendations of a blueprint for sustainability in schools issued by AIA and the U.S. Green Building Council are realized.

The report’s recommendations would have significant implications for design and materials specification for school facilities as a result of the emphasis placed on indoor environmental conditions and energy efficiency.

AIA and USGBC last week unveiled the report, “Local Leaders in Sustainability: A Special Report from Sundance,” at the American Institute of Architects’ Convention and Design Exposition in New Orleans. The document outlines a five-point national action plan that mayors and local leaders can use as a framework to develop and implement green schools initiatives.

 Hood River School

 Opsis Architecture/Michael Mathers

Portrait of a green school: The report on the greening of U.S. schools includes case studies of several educational facilities, including Hood River Middle School in Portland, Ore., shown here.

The report is the result of a conference, the “Greening of America’s Schools Summit,” which took place in November 2010 at the Redford Conference Center at Sundance, Utah. Collaborating to host the summit were USGBC and its Center for Green Schools; the Redford Center, founded by film actor and director Robert Redford; and ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability USA. Participants included mayors and school superintendents from cities across the country, along with leaders in green design, education, arts and green-school advocacy. The summit’s focus was “intimate discussion on the importance of greening school districts,” AIA and USGBC said in formally issuing the report.

The Redford Center (www.redfordcenter.org) is described as an organization that “works as a catalyst for positive change in four key areas: leadership, community, grassroots, and stewardship.”

The Goal: Transformation of Nation’s Schools within a Generation

At a Friday news briefing on the report, USGBC and AIA representatives said the report’s goal is nothing short of a transformation of all the nation’s schools to “green” facilities within a generation.

 River Crest Elementary School

 Hoffman LLC

Also profiled in the report is River Crest Elementary School, Hudson, Wis.

“This report should serve as a guidepost for many communities throughout the country that are looking for ways to implement green initiatives but fear the expense involved,” said AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA. “In reality, the average school is 42 years old, and energy inefficiencies cost it approximately $100,000 a year, money that could be better spent on teachers, education materials, books or computers.”

The report outlines a national action plan that mayors and local leaders can use as a framework to develop and implement a green schools initiative, AIA and USGBC said. The report also provides a comprehensive review of the benefits of green schools; a summary of local, state and federal policy solutions; leadership profiles of green school advocates; and case studies from large cities and small communities.

“Together, these resources serve as a roadmap on the journey to green schools,” the organizations said.

 School Without Walls High School

 © Joseph Romeo, courtesy Perkins Eastman/EE&K

A 19th century school—School Without Walls High School in Washington, D.C.—underwent a “green revolution” in a project profiled in the report.

The report puts forth a detailed case to support a sweeping campaign for the design and development of green schools, including extensive discussion of the following benefits attributed to such schools.

• improved student health and decreased absenteeism

• improved student performance

• value as a teaching tool

• bringing together of communities

• creation of jobs

• cost savings in facility operation

• increased property values in the community

• increased teacher retention

• no significant difference in cost to build

• reduced environmental impacts and resource conservation

The report can be downloaded free of charge from aia.org/localleaders or centerforgreenschools.org/actionplan.


Tagged categories: Design; Energy efficiency; Green building; Sustainability

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