This is part of a series of articles by MBA students at California College of the Arts dMBA program. Follow along here.
By Sarah Klauer, LEED Green Associate
Nearly every U.S. child attends public school for approximately 180 days per year for 13 years. School facilities are where children aged 5-18 spend most of their waking hours during the academic year. This November, more than $14 billion dollars of school bond money was committed to the maintenance and construction of school facilities in California alone. These facilities are essential for educating, raising, and housing our next generation. Schools and the communities surrounding them are often cheerleaders for “green” building certifications that profess to provide students and communities with healthier, more functional facilities, but few people know what these programs include, or why they are important.
This article takes a look at two of the most popular programs—LEED for Schools, and CHPS. Both LEED and CHPS have basic prerequisites that buildings must meet before becoming eligible to earn points towards certification.
LEED for Schools
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program offers a school-specific certification, LEED for Schools. It is available for new construction and awards points for:
• Sustainable Sites
• Water Efficiency
• Energy & Atmosphere
• Materials & Resources
• Indoor Environmental Quality
Education-specific credits include classroom acoustics requirements, master planning, mold prevention, and environmental site requirements. Additional credits are available for addressing region-specific issues. There are various levels of certification available, depending on how many points are achieved.
The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) program is designed for school facilities and certifies various types of projects from new construction, modernizations, and maintenance and operations, to re-locatable classrooms (which are becoming more and more common). CHPS projects are awarded points for:
• Leadership, Education, and Innovation
• Water (Efficiency)
• Energy (Efficiency)
• Climate Control
• Policy and Operations
• Indoor Environmental Quality
There are region-specific point systems available for twelve states, with new states in progress. Three certifications are available: a self-certifying option and two certifications provided through a third party reviewer.
There are several reasons why sustainable school design is important, including monetary savings for the school district, a happier Earth, and better health for students and teachers. Daylighting is not only energy efficient, but can improve health and provide comfort for both students and teachers. Non-sustainable products can emit pollutants—called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that cause students and teachers to feel sick and be less productive. Additionally, schools taking sustainable building measures have been proven to increase test scores. Coincidence? I think not. CHPS and LEED aren’t the only programs out there. Check out the Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) Network and Green Globes to see if they might be a better fit for your project.
Sustainable guidelines are available for all types of new construction and modernization. There are even strategies that can be implemented at home or at work today. As with all things, certification programs should be assessed with a grain of salt. It is important to remember that acronyms are only as meaningful as what they stand for, and that sustainability is driven by action, not by points in a rating system.