Going Green Can Means Savings for Schools, Districts

A survey published in a recent issue of USA Today asked average Americans how likely they were to shop for environmentally responsible products during the economic downturn. The answer surprised me. Thirty-four percent were more likely to, and only eight percent were less likely. This only goes to prove that green is quickly becoming a household word, and despite the current economic conditions, the movement is in full swing.

The stimulus package signed by President Obama is packed with green initiatives that focus on energy efficiency, alternative energy sources, workforce training for “green” jobs, and monies for states and local governments to make energy use greener and more efficient, including in public buildings. With their share, educational institutions are hoping to turn these one-time upgrades into long-term savings.

In this issue of School Planning & Management, we will cover many of the aspects of green that will help you save energy, protect the environment, and enhance learning. For example, did you know:
  • Cool Roofs — Energy efficient roofing systems (cool roofs) can reduce roof temperature by as much as 100° by reflecting the sun’s radiant energy before it penetrates the interior of the building. Energy savings can range from four to 80 percent.
  • Daylighting — Daylighting systems can pay for themselves in less than one year by reducing energy costs and improving productivity. Several studies have also shown a direct link between daylighting and student achievement.
  • Lighting Design — In commercial office buildings, lighting typically accounts for 23 percent of the buildings’ energy use. High performance lighting systems impact both energy use and productivity.
  • Displacement Ventilation — A name given to under-floor air distribution (UFAD) systems, displacement ventilation is beginning to see widespread use. Displacement ventilation uses less energy than fan-forced ventilation, and has added health benefits because it moves contaminants out of the space instead of re-circulating them.
  • Carpet — Indoor air quality (IAQ) is an important environmental consideration and the carpet industry has voluntarily enhanced the IAQ standards for its products, reducing the off-gassing of VOCs in carpet, adhesives, and cushion products. Most commercial manufacturers now meet the standard for Green Label Plus.
  • Floors — The use of rapidly renewable materials like bamboo is gaining in popularity. Growing up to two ft. per day and 60 to 80 ft. per year, bamboo can harden in 5 years and be equal in strength to a 50-year-old tree.
  • Furniture and Finishes — Furniture plays a significant role is green design. Criteria for “green” include the use of rapidly renewable materials, certified wood products, components free of urea-formaldehyde resins, and recyclability.
  • Water-free Urinals/Low-flush Toilets — Recent drought is one reason for the increased interested in water conservation throughout the country. Also, in January 2007. the EPA introduced a voluntary standard to reduce gallons per flush by 20 percent.
  • Xeriscaping — Outdoor water use (primarily landscaping) consumes approximately one-third of all water use. Xeriscaping, planting native species, and natural landscaping can reduce the water used by sprinklers and irrigation systems.
  • Green Cleaning — Levels from pollutants indoors can be two to more than 100 times higher than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products such as paints and strippers, pesticides, and cleaning supplies. Green cleaning products provide natural, safe, non-toxic alternatives.

I hope you enjoy the articles in this special “green” issue and maybe even see an idea that can benefit your school or district.