Green School Building Design

green school building design

Green schools provide a healthy, com­fort­able and pro­duc­tive learning envi­ron­ment for today’s children. Green schools are also cost-effective. In fact, a study by the Center for Eco­l­it­er­a­cy found that while green school con­struc­tion costs are no more than two percent higher than con­ven­tion­al school con­struc­tion (or about $3 a square foot), green schools quickly recoup the costs. Green designed schools use 33 percent less energy than con­ven­tion­al­ly designed schools. Reducing energy use helps the envi­ron­ment because much of the energy comes from burning fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels has caused an excessive buildup of green­house gases, which has created global warming. Adverse impacts of global warming are extensive. A few of the impacts include rising sea levels due to increas­ing rates of glacial melting, more acidic oceans due to increas­ing carbon dioxide levels, and more frequent and severe weather events. Green schools are also good for the community because they are designed to provide healthier air quality. Healthy air quality reduces illness and absen­teeism of both the students and teachers; ulti­mate­ly improving test scores and overall per­for­mances. The upfront costs of building green schools are slightly higher than con­ven­tion­al buildings. However, archi­tects, con­trac­tors, and designers now recognize that the long-term financial, envi­ron­men­tal, and community benefits are well worth the extra, upfront expense.

The Green School Design

Green designs for schools are based largely on the U.S. Green Building Lead­er­ship in Energy and Envi­ron­men­tal Design (LEED) for schools. It is a specific rating system for K‑12 schools used to designate LEED certified green schools. The system looks at areas like classroom acoustics, master planning, mold pre­ven­tion, and envi­ron­men­tal site assess­ment. The rating system addresses the par­tic­u­lar needs of class­rooms and chil­dren’s health. The green schools are also rated based on their impact on their sites, material used, sourcing, design, con­struc­tion, and effi­cien­cy of building systems including, water, energy, air quality, lighting, waste and transportation.

In order to become a LEED certified green school, the school must receive a minimum number of points in six specific areas.

Site selection and development

Water and energy use

Envi­ron­men­tal­ly preferred materials, finishes, and furnishings

Waste stream management

Indoor air quality and comfort

Inno­va­tion in sus­tain­able design and construction

Designing Effective Acoustical Spaces in Schools

Designing effective acousti­cal spaces in schools is essential for clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion between the teacher and students. The learning spaces must not echo or be too noisy. To create effective acousti­cal spaces in schools, three criteria are con­sid­ered: rever­ber­a­tion times, STC ratings, and back­ground noise levels. Rever­ber­a­tion time measures sound absorp­tion. Sound Trans­mis­sion Class (STC) measures how much sound comes through a barrier (like a wall, ceiling, or floor.). Back­ground noise includes AC units, outside noise, furnace, etc.

Careful selection of materials like ceiling tiles and properly designed walls, doors and windows that have high sound trans­mis­sion coef­fi­cients will create an acoustic envi­ron­ment conducive to learning. Addi­tion­al­ly, appro­pri­ate­ly placed heating, ven­ti­lat­ing, and air-con­di­tion­ing vents and lined ductwork limit noise issues in schools. 

The Bautex Wall System is ideal for creating a learning space that optimizes com­mu­ni­ca­tion between the students and teacher. The Bautex Block is an insulated concrete exterior and interior wall system that provides high sound reduction. The Bautex Wall System meets the American National Standards Institute criteria for schools and received high Sound Trans­mis­sion Class and Outdoor-Indoor Trans­mis­sion Class ratings from ETS-Lindgren Acoustic Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry. In addition, the Bautex Wall System provides structure, envelope, con­tin­u­ous insu­la­tion, fire resis­tance, and air and moisture pro­tec­tion in a single inte­grat­ed assembly. Bautex Wall System meets and exceeds many of the require­ments for green building design and is an excellent choice for either the interior or exterior of schools.

Lighting Designs in Green Schools

Energy efficient and high-producing schools utilize natural light as much as possible to reduce power con­sump­tion and create a pleasant learning envi­ron­ment. It is essential that designers of school strate­gi­cal­ly place windows so to manage lighting levels, glare and unwanted solar heat gains and losses. Because much of the exterior wall area of schools is often windows, it is essential the windows have the following energy efficient features. 

Low-con­duc­tance gas fills that reduce heat trans­mis­sion through the window

Low-emis­siv­i­ty so that heat in the winter stays inside and heat in the summers stays outside

Solar control coatings to reduce solar gain while main­tain­ing light trans­mis­sion and clarity

When natural light is not an option, energy efficient flu­o­res­cent lights, ideally hooked up to occupant sensors, are a good choice for green school building design. Good, natural lighting is essential to any learning space and will pos­i­tive­ly impact student and teacher health and sense of well-being. 

Indoor Air Quality in Green School Design

Excellent air quality in schools is essential for creating a healthy envi­ron­ment for teachers and students. Closed up spaces with little ven­ti­la­tion can become incu­ba­tors for germs and mold. These poorly ven­ti­lat­ed spaces can con­tribute to more illnesses and asthma issues than open, well-ven­ti­lat­ed spaces. Proper instal­la­tion of air and moisture barriers is essential to green school design.The Bautex Air and Moisture Barrier is an excellent product for pre­vent­ing air and moisture infil­tra­tion to the interior of the structure. Bautex Air and Moisture Barrier is easy to apply and ensures a tight and extremely energy-efficient building envelope that meets and even exceeds the require­ments of most com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion projects. 

Green school building design is only slightly more expensive than con­ven­tion­al design. The benefits to green design well outweigh the initial expense. Green schools are healthier, safer, more com­fort­able and foster a more suc­cess­ful learning expe­ri­ence for teachers and students.

If you are planning to build a new school and are looking for an expe­ri­enced architect, here is a directory of Texas-based archi­tects with expe­ri­ence in designing schools.