Green Trends Point to Rosier Outlook for Educational Facilities in 2010

The design and construction industry had a difficult year in 2009, to say the least. However, green building has been a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster year, and there is no sign of that changing in 2010. Eco-friendly school design is on the radar of all those planning new facilities or revamping existing ones to make them more efficient and modern, which is why Spector Group offers the following trends for green construction in 2010: 

The Smart Grid and Connected School
While utilities will continue to make upgrades to the grid for more effective generation, storage and distribution of power, the big news is inside schools.

The development of custom and Web-based display panels that show real-time and apparatus-specific energy usage will help change occupants’ behavior and drive conservation. In the same way that the Toyota Prius miles-per-gallon indicator has motivated some owners to modify driving habits, these “dashboards” may create “extreme energy” buffs intent on reaching individual energy goals specified by rating systems such as the Energy Performance Score.

Energy Labeling
The advent of more accurate energy rating systems — similar to the miles-per-gallon sticker on your car — has caught the attention of energy agencies and legislators around the country and enabled builders to make simple building-to-building comparisons.

A post-improvement audit can also measure the effectiveness of upgrades, a useful tool for gauging results of stimulus funding for retrofits. In New York, the Energy Performance Score has been written into recent bills to explore mandatory energy labeling at the time of any transaction.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) Software
Spector Group is on the cutting edge of the use of this means of document delivery, putting it to work at the Bronx Psychiatric Redevelopment Project, a nearly one million square-foot project of which one half is education and teaching-related facilities. In design phase and slated for completion in 2013, the project is utilizing BIM technology to ensure that the entire campus meets the minimum of LEED Gold certification.

What are the benefits? The continued evolution of CAD software for building design has produced new add-on tools with increasingly accurate algorithms for energy modeling as well as embedded energy properties for many materials and features. This will prove instrumental in predicting building performance. BIM developers will soon offer more affordable packages aimed at smaller firms and individual builders.

Campus-style schools will become more popular, keeping services and supplies within walking or biking distance by linking school buildings separated by differing grades or departments and keeping the carbon footprint low.

Water Conservation
Mandatory energy labeling in Europe already documents water efficiency in buildings — it may soon be incorporated into U.S. performance scores. Water will be the essential resource in the next decade, and schools are doing the wise thing by getting in on the act.

Carbon Calculation

Progressive school builders are looking at ways to document, measure and reduce greenhouse gas creation in building materials and processes. Lifecycle analysis of building products is underway by third-party technical teams, while others are working with federal and state building authorities to educate staff, create monetized carbon credits and develop effective carbon offset policies. This effort will be heightened once a federal cap-and-trade mechanism is launched in the U.S.

Net-Zero Buildings
A net-zero building generates more energy than it uses over the course of a year, as a result of relatively small size, extreme efficiencies and onsite renewable energy sources such as wind, solar or geo-exchange systems.

While the Architecture 2030 Challenge sets forth net zero as the goal for all buildings in 2030, Spector is already implementing this cost-saving design on many of its projects.

Sustainable Building Education
While the slowdown afforded many builders the opportunity to learn about green building and establish credentials, the momentum is being supplied by savvy administration and end-users, including the two Newark, N.J., elementary schools Spector designed in the city’s “Iron Bound District,” both of which will be constructed starting in 2011.

The continued demand for eco-smart buildings, especially in progressive cities, will supply new learning opportunities for the entire chain of professionals in the construction industry, from real estate to finance and insurance.

With so many educational institutions beginning to understand the value of going green — and putting those ideals into practice — the future of our schools is looking rosier by the day.
Marc Spector, AIA, is a principal at the Spector Group, a leading New York-based international architecture, master planning and design firm. The award-winning company has offices in New York City, Long Island and Abu Dhabi. To date, it has completed over 1,000 projects in 12 states and five foreign countries. For more information, visit