K-12 Schools Learn the Ropes of
The education sector in New York, New
Jersey, and Connecticut is turning the corner on the use of
green design and construction methods.
The shift comes at a time when a growing body of evidence
is finding that green schools provide healthier learning environments
and enhance student performance while also saving energy and
reducing operating costs for school districts.
Examples include a state-run initiative in Washington called
the Washington Sustainable Schools Pilot Program that found
green schools correlated with a 5 percent increase in student
test scores, a 5 percent reduction in teacher turnover, a
15 percent reduction in absenteeism, a 25 percent reduction
in energy use on average, and a 38 percent drop in potable
Similarly, the 2005 Market Barometer Survey conducted by
Turner Construction of New York found that senior administrators
of K-12 school facilities rated green schools higher for their
ability to improve student performance, reduce absenteeism,
and attract and retain teachers [see Studies below].
Experience in the field is showing that these benefits can
be realized for about the same cost as conventional schools
if design teams employ integrated design practices early in
the planning process, said Bob Maddox, president of the Connecticut
Green Building Council, an organization based in Rocky Hill,
Conn., that promotes green construction but is not a direct
affiliate of the U.S. Green Building Council. Still, construction
and renovation of schools to high-performance standards has
not become the norm.
The major factors holding back a bigger shift to green methods
are a lack of understanding about the design concepts and
the potential for higher upfront costs, Maddox said. But as
the number of green school projects grows, some districts
and contractors are finding ways to achieve smaller cost differentials.
For example, the $22 million Carlstadt Public School in Carlstadt,
N.J., which is being built to serve a K-8 enrollment in Bergen
County, achieved sustainable goals with no increase in costs,
said Patrick LaCorte, principal at DMR Architects of Hasbrouck
Heights, N.J., the architect on the project.
Similarly, green features at the new $48 million Hamden Middle
School being built in Hamden, Conn., are adding $333,000 to
the budget, or 0.7 percent of the total project cost, said
Ryszard Sczcypek, a partner at Tai Soo Kim Partners of Hartford,
Conn., an architectural firm that designed the school. That's
much less than the 5 to 10 percent typically cited as the
premium for green construction in the building industry.
One factor holding down costs is the effort to introduce
integrated design practices - which view all building elements
as a single system of interacting components - early in the
"Clearly utilizing an integrated design approach upfront
is the way you achieve high-performance schools on a budget,"
Integrated design calls for project teams to strategize early
in the process to maximize building performance within the
stated budget. Architects for a $22 million renovation of
Roxboro Road Middle School in Syracuse, N.Y., got the owner,
consultants, and design team to brainstorm about systems before
starting schematic designs.
"We wanted a wholly integrated sustainable building
on all fronts," said Krista Hannacker, an architect with
Ashley McGraw Architects of Syracuse, which designed the Roxboro
At the $29 million, 203,000-sq.-ft. Calkins Road Middle School
being built in Pittsford, N.Y., "integrated design and
simulation tools identified the components of the project
significantly contributing to energy performance and then
steered project funding toward those components," said
Christopher Balbach, HVAC engineer at Thomas Associates of
Ithaca, N.Y., the project's architect.
Another factor keeping down high-performance school budgets
is a maturing market for green building goods and materials,
which has allowed product costs to drop and availability to
And some school districts are saving money by opting out
of the expense for the green building council's Leadership
in Energy and Environmental Design certification.
"Paying the fees for certification or preparing the
paperwork is something very few clients are willing to do,"
said Christian Nielsen-Palacios, associate principal at Thomas
Associates. He declined to cite the specific costs, however.
Either way, greater familiarity with green building methods,
aided in part by the LEED standards, has made approaching
these projects less daunting, said Jim Culkin, project executive
for Konover Construction of Farmington, Conn., who also credited
teamwork and coordination for facilitating the construction
of the Hamden project.
"We spent a lot of time on preconstruction on this job,
working closely with Tai Soo Kim Partners and the client,"
Culkin said. "You hear people talk about how difficult
it is to build a LEED building, but frankly I do not really
think it was a factor here."
Tools and Systems Gain Prominence
At the $30.6 million, 149,000-sq.-ft. Neptune Community School
under construction in Neptune Township, N.J., several systems
build toward a goal of reduced energy consumption and lower
operating costs. One is a geothermal heating and cooling system
tied to heat pumps that feed an under-floor air-delivery system,
while other features include triple-pane windows and insulation
levels beyond code requirements, both to improve energy efficiency.
The project, for which the Neptune public school district
is seeking gold-level LEED certification, added $125,000 to
the budget for energy-efficient features. But these features
helped to reduce heating and cooling loads by 40 percent,
which in turn allowed for the downsizing of mechanical systems
by approximately 50 percent, saving $295,000, said Marcus
Rosenau, an associate with SSP Architectural Group of Somerville,
"We also reduced operating costs by $80,000 per year,"
At the Calkins school in Pittsford, energy recovery systems
and additional insulation improved energy efficiency by 30
percent over a standard code-compliant building. Energy recovery
ventilators allowed a 30 percent reduction in the size of
a geothermal well field and heat pumps servicing the classrooms.
The project team also installed a unique refrigerant-free
dehumidification system for the new school's indoor swimming
pool that utilizes outside air to dehumidify the space and
Beyond the cost- and energy-saving features, the green construction
movement is also resulting in improved indoor air quality
in schools, based on the research and field evidence suggesting
that better air quality corresponds to a lower level of student
absences. Both the Neptune and Roxboro Road projects utilize
a displacement ventilation system to provide fresh air.
At the 148,200-sq.-ft. Roxboro facility, low-velocity clean
air that is slightly cooler than room temperature funnels
in at floor level. As the body heat of pupils and teachers
warms the clean air and causes it to rise, it captures germs
and other indoor contaminants and exhausts them via units
at the top of the room, Hannacker said.
Another integral feature of the high-performance school construction
wave is the maximization of daylight exposure, which also
saves energy and is tied to improved student performance.
The architects of the Neptune facility decided to rotate the
structure from its original footprint to maximize daylight
"harvesting." Meanwhile, light shelves and sunscreens
on the building's exterior bounce the light deeper into classrooms.
At Roxboro, 90 percent of the occupied spaces have exposure
to daylight. In both facilities, daylight sensors reduce or
eliminate artificial light requirements.
Site improvements also reveal green thinking. Small water
retention areas built around the site of the new Hamden school
in Connecticut, set to open this fall, helped to reduce stormwater
"Water captured by the system is infiltrated through
native planting and soils and then back into the groundwater,"
said Tai Soo Kim's Sczcypek.
Similarly, the Carlstadt school installed water-efficient
fixtures and eliminated the need for irrigation by landscaping
with drought-resistant plants. Overall water use is 20 percent
lower than with a standard building, said Pradeep Kapoor,
project manager for DMR.
While the current slate of green projects is not a large
percentage of the hefty volume of school construction in the
region, the pace of sustainable design is gaining momentum.
For instance, New Jersey enacted Executive Order 24 last
year, which requires all schools to meet LEED guidelines,
though not necessarily to get LEED certification, said Dean
Evan, director of the New Jersey Institute for Technology's
Center for Architecture and Building Science Research. Meanwhile,
a bill is pending in Connecticut's state legislature that
would require all schools to meet similar standards, Maddox
In addition, New York City recently enacted a law calling
for green construction for municipal buildings, including
schools, by 2007.
And New York State is developing a set of school construction
guidelines that would be based on standards set by the Collaborative
for High Performance Schools, a nonprofit organization founded
in California that has developed voluntary sustainable design
standards tailored to schools. According to Matthew Brown,
associate project manager at the New York State Energy Research
and Development Authority, the New York guidelines would likely
be voluntary as well.
|Calkins Road Middle School
Location: Pittsford, N.Y.
Cost: $29 million
Specifications: New, 203,000-sq.-ft., two-story building
LEED goal: Not pursuing
Architect: Thomas Associates Architects, Ithaca, N.Y.
Expected completion: Spring 2006
Roxboro Road Middle School
Location: Syracuse, N.Y.
Cost: $22 million
Specifications: Renovation and additions, 148,200-sq.-ft.,
LEED goal: Certified level
Architect: Ashley McGraw Architects, Syracuse, N.Y.
Expected completion: December 2006
Neptune Township Midtown Community
Location: Neptune, N.J.
Cost: $30.6 million
Specifications: New, 149,700-sq.-ft., three-story building
LEED goal: Gold level
Architect: SSP Architectural Group, Somerville, N.J.
Expected completion: December 2006
Carlstadt Public School K-8
Location: Carlstadt, N.J.
Cost: $22 million
Specifications: New, 111,097-sq.-ft., three-story building
LEED goal: Silver level
Architect: DMR Architects, Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.
Expected completion: August 2006
Hamden Middle School
Location: Hamden, Conn.
Cost: $48 million
Specifications: New, 197,000-sq.-ft., two-story building
LEED goal: Certified level
Architect: Tai Soo Kim Partners,
Expected completion: September 2006
|Studies and Stats
on Green Schools
Washington Sustainable Schools
Pilot Project: www.k12.wa.us/schfacilities
A recent study of high-performance schools under the
Washington Sustainable Schools Pilot Program found correlation
with a 5 percent increase in student test scores, a
5 percent reduction in teacher turnover, and a 15 percent
reduction in absenteeism. It also found a reduction
in energy use on average of 25 percent and potable water
usage of 38 percent.
Turner Construction 2005
Market Barometer Survey Results for K-12 Schools: www.turnerconstruction.com/corporate/content.asp?d=4919&p=4008
The study found that senior executives and administrators
of K-12 facilities rated green K-12 schools higher in
their ability to improve student performance (71 percent),
reduce absenteeism (72 percent), and attract and retain
teachers (74 percent). The survey also found 49 percent
of respondents citing improved indoor air quality, and
37 percent citing an increase in natural lighting, as
the most important factors contributing to the improved
health and well-being of school occupants.
Heschong Mahone Group Daylighting
and Productivity Study:
A study quantifying benefits of high-performance schools,
with a particular focus on the effects of maximizing
daylight exposure. Among the findings were that sunlight
glare negatively affected student learning while an
ample and pleasant view outside of windows corresponded
with better student achievement. The study also found
that poor ventilation and indoor air quality appeared
to have a negative effect on student performance.