Sustainable School Design in the Spotlight: 5 Principles

  • by Evelyn Long
  • /
  • 2021-05-20 18:05:56
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  • International
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  • 16739
Sustainable School Design in the Spotlight: 5 Principles

As climate change becomes an increasingly prevalent matter, construction professionals have started to look at ways to improve buildings worldwide. It’s one of the best ways to help the planet, as homes and businesses contribute to 13% of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. 

There’s a lot of room for improvement. Between energy use, waste production and other factors, workers in the construction field can make adjustments to help the planet. Further, sustainable design can make indoor environments safer and healthier.

Here’s a look at five key principles in eco-friendly construction for schools. 

1. Prioritize Indoor Air Quality

It may not seem like a substantial issue, but indoor air pollution (IAP) presents numerous health threats — and schools don’t always have the best environments. With older buildings in particular, asbestos, dust and other particles can lead to different illnesses. Plus, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are often present in paint, which create smog and acid rain.

To protect students, faculty and staff in school buildings, workers should install HVAC systems that boost ventilation. It’s also smart to let in outdoor air through secure windows. Every material used in the building process should be toxin- and chemical-free.

Be on the lookout for old building materials that might pose health risks for people inside, and have them removed professionally.

2. Explore Energy-Efficient Resources

All schools should emphasize energy efficiency. There are more than 17,000 school districts in the United States, and together, they spend over $6 billion on power costs annually. Construction experts must provide ways for schools to cut back on usage so they can save money and reduce emissions.

  • Consider a switch to renewable energy, like solar power.
  • Install smart lights in classrooms and offices.
  • Add occupancy sensors for lights.
  • Place smart thermostats in low-occupancy areas like auditoriums.
  • Include an energy management system.

These changes don’t have to be time-intensive or costly, so they should fit almost all budgets. Energy has become a primary concern for many schools since expenses can become so high. A few simple switches should help facilities be more eco-friendly while saving money.

3. Use Ethically Sourced Materials

Construction workers should strive to use ethically sourced materials during a renovation or build. Most supplies should include recycled or renewable properties. For example, rubber floors are a safer, more versatile option for schools — partly because they can survive the wear and tear of primary education, but also because they can contain recyclable materials that have a net positive effect on the environment.

These options are far better for the environment than newly made supplies, as they limit waste, reduce production emissions and preserve energy. Plus, workers can ensure the choices don’t contain toxic elements. While ethically sourced materials aren’t always available, they should be a priority.

4. Create Adaptable Classrooms

Why should a classroom only serve one purpose? It’s more eco-friendly to create adaptable spaces than build several areas just for a single reason. Though some rooms can only suit one design, like science laboratories, general classrooms can adjust to many needs.

Add folding walls, moveable furniture and storage cabinets. This technique ensures the area will have multiple applications, so teachers can do a lecture in one place and then open up the space for group activities. It eliminates the need for unnecessary construction, so schools won’t have to take on extensive projects.

5. Add Natural Daylight

This point might seem like a small one. However, daylight impacts how students learn in classrooms. It turns out that natural light improves vision and increases productivity. Therefore, construction professionals should emphasize it in their school designs.

There are other benefits, too. When schools have more windows, energy bills will be lower. It’s a good way to reduce carbon emissions, too. America’s electricity system has a substantial impact on the planet, so when schools use less power for lighting, they can help the environment, as well.

Look for ways to incorporate skylights, floor-to-ceiling windows and more.

These Elements Are Key in Sustainable School Design

There’s no denying that sustainability has become more important in construction. These days, more buildings, including schools, are planning renovations and remodels to help them reduce costs, decrease waste and minimize emissions. This effort also contributes to students’ health.

To ensure future projects work to benefit the environment, implement the ideas listed above.

 school design
 education design
 sustainable building

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