Altogether close to 60 million students, pedagogues, and educational staff spend large parts of their days in more than 120,000 school buildings across the USA. Many of these buildings are not in an appropriate condition to provide an inspiring and positive learning and work environment for their users. Most of them are also not very sustainable. Too many of them are outdated in design and equipment, crowded, in desperate need of repair, and slowly degrading. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, primary and secondary school enrollment will grow between 6% and 9% until the year 2014. This will result in increased expenditure on the construction of new schoolhouses and raised costs for school renovation and maintenance. An annual construction volume of up to US$ 35 billion is expected. For many communities and school districts, a careful revisiting of their master plans for educational development is necessary in order to ensure that often limited resources are spent in the most sustainable and effective way. By just considering some basic principles of green design, a school can lower the annual operating costs for utilities considerably: Correct orientation of the building on the site helps to prevent overheating in summer and might generate heat gain in winter. Providing an abundance of natural day lighting with suitable glazing can lower the consumption of electric power by up to 50 %. Natural ventilation throughout the building and the provision of operable windows give the immediate users more control over their working environment while cutting energy use. The use of water saving fixtures and the collection of rain water and gray water for certain applications help to lower the fresh water consumption while creating environmental awareness. A well designed school can be a lot more than a place for learning but functions as a three dimensional textbook that introduces children at an early age to the practice and value of environmental awareness and stewardship. This paper will introduce several school projects where sustainable features were included as a comprehensive learning tool as part of the school architecture and landscaping. By teaching the next generation good citizenship and awareness for the natural environment, these buildings can be catalysts for a more sustainable future.
|Keywords:||Educational Facilities, Schools, School Buildings, Environmental Education, Sustainable Infrastructure|
Assistant Professor and Architecture Program Director, Department of Architecture + Interiors, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA