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9. Build with energy conservation in mind.

The path to an energy-efficient school starts when you solicit architects and engineers. At the very beginning of a project, state that you are planning to build an energy-efficient facility.

When you design your new facilities, specify that the equipment and materials should be energy-efficient and include control systems. By building new facilities with energy efficiency in mind, you can reduce the operating cost of the facility.

Keep in mind the life-cycle costs of the facility, which are the costs to operate the facility over its useful life. Make design decisions based on the life of the component by optimizing the long-term energy efficiency rather than the initial cost. Most school facilities are used for 50 years or more; so make sure you build facilities that you will be able to afford to operate for that long. From site orientation to designing energy-efficient features, planning is important.

The McKinney ISD’s Roy Lee Walker Elementary and J.J. Pickle Elementary in the Austin ISD in Central Texas were included in a recent study, “Daylighting in Schools: Improving Student Performance and Health at a Price Schools Can Afford.” The paper discusses the evidence regarding daylighting and student performance and development, and presents four case studies of schools that have cost-effectively incorporated daylighting into their buildings. Recent rigorous statistical studies, involving 21,000 students in three states, reveal that students perform better in daylit classrooms and indicate the health benefits of daylighting.

SECO offers the Sustainable School Design Program. The McKinney ISD’s Roy Lee Walker Elementary and the Austin ISD’s J.J. Pickle Elementary schools will serve as sustainability models for other districts. Both schools will demonstrate the multiple benefits of natural daylighting, improved indoor air quality and energy efficiency on the students and teachers.

According to a 1992 study conducted by the Alberta Department of Energy in Canada, students benefited significantly from attending schools where daylight, rather than traditional artificial lighting, was the principal source of internal lighting. The study found that students enrolled in schools where daylighting was prevalent exhibited among other things: reduced absenteeism by 3.5 days per year, increased concentration levels, a significant reduction in library noise, better scholastic performance and more positive moods induced by natural light.

Sustainable design takes into consideration total environmental and economic impacts. The concept of sustainability in development is based on principles of resource efficiency, health and productivity. These principles require that we look at buildings, energy sources and development on a full, life-cycle basis. This approach takes into consideration the total environmental and economic impacts, energy sources, product manufacture, transportation, design and construction, operations and maintenance, building reuse and deconstruction and disposal.

The initial cost to build McKinney ISD’s Walker Elementary was about 15 percent higher than the average, but the savings over the life of the structure will more than make up for the additional costs. The sustainable features at Walker don’t just save money and energy in the long run, they provide a valuable learning opportunity for the students. The sustainable building practices at Walker include: building siting and orientation; optimizing natural lighting, providing for task lighting and specifying high-efficiency electric lighting; establishing an energy budget for each project; specifying locally or regionally produced products; designing to minimize cut-off waste and providing for recycling during construction; specifying materials and finishes with low or no volatile organic compound emissions and providing adequate ventilation; considering energy, water, materials consumption, transportation and impacts on natural systems when selecting products and materials; minimizing impervious surface and providing infiltration and retention of storm water; landscaping with native vegetation; and looking for opportunities to provide shelter or habitat for compatible species as well as to restore waterways, vegetation and habitats.

Additional Resources:

Below is a list of additional resources you may find helpful. Information in the documents and URLs listed below are not necessarily endorsed by this agency, only provided as a resource.

Sustainable Building Design
(State Energy Conservation Office)
Toll-free phone number: 1-800-531-5441, extension 3-1931

Innovative Design Study
(North Carolina)
An analysis of the performance of students ay daylit schools.

McKinney ISD, Walker Elementary School
A virtual tour of the McKinney ISD’s Walker School.

Study by the Heschong Mahone Group
An Investigation into the Relationship between Daylighting and Human Performance.
(you will be required to register before downloading)

Energy Smart Schools
“Can School Buildings Affect Student Performance?”