Green School Construction: Full Steam Ahead!
Who knew that schools account for 27 percent of the U.S. construction market? With so much school construction, we can make exciting progress toward creating healthy, resource-efficient learning environments for America's future.
The opportunity is even greater in California, where CALGreen, California's new far-reaching green building code, takes effect in January, 2011. CALGreen will require all school and other construction to employ energy efficient and sustainable design and construction practices.
The Washington, DC and San Bernardino, CA school districts are ahead of the curve.
Washington, DC: Stoddert Elementary, built in 1932, has been transformed. It's now a model for innovative, boasting DC's first school geothermal heating and cooling system (located under the ball field), along with other eco-friendly design features that enhance student learning and environmental awareness: two green roofs, a solar reflecting white roof, and daylighting to name a few. Check out its interactive online "green kiosk" showcasing its many green features.
The man behind the modernization is Allen Y. Lew, Director of the DC Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization (OPEFM). He may not be a wizard, but he has delivered magic for the district with billions of dollars of the greenest possible improvements to DC's 141 public schools, many of which had languished in chronic disrepair.
Lew was hand-picked by Mayor Adrian Fenty to manage the OPEFM based on his impressive track record in DC: he managed construction of both the Washington Convention Center and the Nationals baseball stadium. According to the Washington Post, Lew "is respected by city leaders for his ability to deliver large, complicated public construction projects on time and on budget." Lew has been aided in his efforts by a federal law requiring that every modernized school meet a minimum of Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
While the District of Columbia has become a leader with regard to green school buildings, Mr. Lew has become a DC legend. An unassuming hands-on manager who inspires confidence, he has visited every school project site. Because he is trusted to put public money to good use, he has succeeded in bringing in additional private funding. His successes have caught the attention of architects around the country, and he hopes the modernization of the DC schools will serve as a national model for high performance urban school design and construction.
Now the OPEFM is partnering with US Green Building Council (USGBC) to spread the magic across the country. The two organizations recently announced a brand new Center for Green Schools at the USGBC to accelerate efforts to employ the best of green and high performance design, construction and operations in new and existing schools. The goal is to ensure that all schools and universities go green within this generation.
San Bernardino: "We had the focus and determination and desire and the willingness to make it happen,” reflects Wael Elatar, Facilities Administrator for the San Bernardino School District. Elatar is referring to the modernization of more than 53 of the district's 68 school buildings since 2004, along with the building/planned construction of 9 new schools.
While San Bernardino is suffering the same -- or worse -- economic woes that most schools in the country are enduring, a strong team of dedicated facilities folks, along with a committed green schools consultant, have driven the process and continue to see it through.
About a third of the modernization projects and several new schools qualified for 100% funding under a state grant program. Green Technology magazine reports, "In addition to state financial hardship and overcrowded relief grants, the District also received about $630,000 from the state’s High Performance Schools Incentive program, and $120,000 from Savings by Design, an incentive program promoting green construction. In all, the total project cost estimate for all projects ranges from $700 to $899.8 million."
Each project is being built to high-performance standards, thanks to help from the Collaborative for High Performing Schools (CHPS) and its online tool, the Operations Report Card (ORC). Using information gathered through the ORC process, the facilities/consultant team worked diligently to revise plans and projects to ensure that each building had as many green, high-performance components as possible, despite some reticence on the part of the architecture firms involved in the project. The goal was to employ affordable cutting edge technology and design to reduce the carbon footprint of each school and maximize cost savings through reduction of energy use.
Read more about San Bernardino's experience
Related Event: Annual Green California Schools Summit, Dec. 8-10, 2010 in Pasadena: "policy innovations, implementation best practices, and new technologies."