A Case for Sustainability

In these tough economic times, everyone is dealing with budget cuts, including schools and colleges. While some institutions are using the economy as an excuse to shy away from sustainable design, others choose to concentrate on the potential savings. These savings can range from reduced utility costs by improving operational efficiencies and performance, costs avoided by mitigating health and safety risks, to money saved due to improved recruitment and retention — not to mention improved productivity, performance and morale.

For many institutions, energy savings is at the top of their to-do list. With the annual energy bill for elementary and secondary schools topping $6 billion, with another $2 billion being spent at the college and university level, the savings can be huge. Most reports state that energy management strategies have been shown to lower energy bills by 30 percent or more. This would add up to a savings of $2.4 billion dollars — or more — to reinvest in education.

To optimize energy use, The National Institute of Building Science Whole Building Design Guide Sustainable Committee suggests a comprehensive, integrated perspective that seeks to do the following.
  • Reduce heating, cooling and lighting loads through climate-responsive design and conservation practices.
  • Employ renewable energy sources such as daylighting, passive solar heating, photovoltaic, geothermal and groundwater cooling.
  • Specify efficient HVAC and lighting systems that consider part-load conditions and utility interface requirements.
  • Optimize building performance by employing energy modeling programs and optimize system control strategies by using occupancy sensors CO2 sensors and other air quality alarms.
  • Monitor project performance through a policy of commissioning, metering, annual reporting and periodic recommissioning.

This issue of School Planning & Management will focus on stories that will help you create a healthy, productive learning environment; improve absenteeism and teacher turnover; protect the environment; and the silver lining — save your school money.