Welcome to Green Campus Initiative - Working Together for a Sustainable Future
K-8 Education K-12 Education Colleges & Universities
It's not easy being green! - Kermit T. Frog   Home K-12 Schools 12 Steps toward Sustainability New Construction

New Construction

New construction projects are excellent opportunities to address sustainability on a school campus. An academic building's working life runs some fifty years or more. Buildings designed to higher standards of energy efficiency and lower emissions make long-term contributions towards sustainable living on the planet. Conversely, inefficient buildings are environmentally and economically burdensome long into the future. By constructing sustainable buildings, a school lessens its environmental impact, but environmental improvements also enhance school image, demonstrating a commitment to ecological education. Additionally, efficient buildings lower operating costs, and conserve school resources in the long run.

Architects designed Greensburg, Kansasís new school to take full advantage of solar energy. Image courtesy eere.energy.gov.
  Organizational Assistance   Best Practices  
  • Do Not Oversize or Overbuild
    Reducing operating costs before the ground is even broken can lead to payoffs in the long run. Design buildings that are highly efficient from the start. First, do not build a structure that is bigger than is necessary. Over-sizing and over-building is inherently wasteful. Heating, cooling, ventilating, and lighting spaces that are not being used are simply a waste of energy and money. Make appropriate sizing part of your design philosophy. Architects sometimes oversize boilers and furnaces in order to ensure that their clients are sufficiently warm. However, running an unnecessarily large boiler is less efficient than using a boiler that is adequately sized for a building. Lastly, do not install more light fixtures than are necessary to make a work-space usable and comfortable.
  • Use High Performance Building Standards
    When considering designing high performance buildings, use existing standards. Several organizations have developed standards for high performance buildings that comprehensively address environmental impact and energy efficiency. The U.S. Green Building Council has developed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards for both new commercial and industrial construction, as well as schools. There are also standards for renovation of existing buildings and residential construction. LEED uses a sixty-nine point evaluation with four tiers of recognition: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. The system is intended to allow a builder to work from his/her own unique situation. The standard encourages the creative use of resources available to produce sustainable buildings. Another high performance building standard is CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools). CHPS is a code originating from the state of California but is now being utilized nationally. This system is specifically designed for school buildings. CHPS integrates sustainability and classroom comfort and incorporates: lighting, acoustics, and air quality as factors into the design to ensure optimal student and teacher performance.
  • Use Natural Systems
    Construction of new buildings should take the surrounding environment into consideration. Using nature as a means to help regulate building functions means that artificial systems do not have to be used as heavily or even at all. Building “green roofs”, which are roofs with plants on them, can moderate the effects of solar radiation on roofs during summer months by providing added insulation on the roof. Deciduous trees on the south side of buildings help seasonally regulate temperatures. The trees shade the building in the summer and allow sunlight to pass through them into the house in the winter. Sky lights are another example of natural lighting systems. Every day that sunlight can be used to light a room, less energy is required from non-renewable sources. Rain water can be captured in systems and then used to flush toilets and water lawns.
  • Incorporate Renewable Sources of Energy
    Despite the availability of other technologies, the most common form of electrical generation is the United States is still coal fired power plants, with release of carbon dioxide and sulfur into the atmosphere, owing to increased acid rain. All fossil fuels produce green house gases (GHG) and contribute to climate change. Electrical power and heating can both be accomplished through the use of renewable technology. Photovoltaic systems which convert sunlight into electricity are a viable way to reduce consumption from the power grid. Wind power can be used in regions of high wind or in microclimates on select schools. Generators range from 400 watts to four megawatts of capacity, most schools likely would be best served by systems in the 10 -1000 kilowatt range, though larger systems may be viable.
    Heating with solar hot water is an effective way to replace or retrofit existing conventional heating and hot water systems.  Other active or passive technologies can also be considered. Active systems use pumps to circulate a heating medium (such as water) in order to transfer thermal energy. Passive systems do not require pumps to achieve heating and are a product of proper building orientation and architecture. Geothermal is another possible form of heating, harnessing the Earth's natural heat. In closed-loop systems a heat transfer medium (generally water) is pumped deep into the ground and circulated in areas of higher or lower temperature. This medium is then brought into the building to heat or cool the building, depending on the time of year.
  • Use Environmentally Friendly Materials
    Consider using recycled materials. In projects where a new building is constructed shortly after another has been demolished, investigate whether it is possible to use portions of the old building shell in the construction of the new building or buildings. Ensure that interiors use paints and flooring materials that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Also try to use building materials that are renewable. Wood and wheat board are viable options that are environmentally friendly. When wood or wheat is growing it also sequesters carbon dioxide and helps reduce green house gasses in the atmosphere.
  • Life Cycle Analysis
    Life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) should be done on all construction plans before ground is broken. LCCA evaluates building design by estimating the inputs necessary for a structure’s operation throughout its working life. The scope of LCCA is variable, and can include: electrical costs; maintenance costs; offsets from renewables; total greenhouse gas emissions; and other areas pertaining to cost or environmental impact. Life cycle models allow architects and building owners to determine the effectiveness of their design in the long-term. Higher construction costs can be justified as investments in energy savings, reduced maintenance expenses, and increased school prestige resulting from reduced environmental impact. Also, in many cases LCCA can demonstrate which design elements are least cost effective for reaching desired economic or environmental savings targets. LCCA can therefore reduce future operating costs.
Want to learn more? Visit the Keep Connecticut Cool website!
Home | Webmaster | Disclaimer |Privacy Policy (Copyright © ISE 2010)