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.