For students in Seattle, Washington, D.C., and some other U.S. cities, the first day of school this year has special significance – it means they will be learning in a green school, quite likely for the first time.
At D.C.’s new Brookland Middle School, for instance, being green means having geothermal wells power the heating and cooling system. It means re-using rainwater to flush toilets. And it means highly-efficient LED lighting, and even a rooftop classroom with gardens for vegetables and butterflies. Topping it all off will hopefully be a planned rooftop solar array for on-site renewable energy generation. Another critical aspect of school sustainability is setting and achieving aggressive targets for economic inclusion so the local workforce can benefit from the project’s economic impact. Such approaches mean Brookland and other green schools will not only save on energy costs and improve the local communities, but their green features are designed to inspire students and help them learn about sustainability.
Brookland is one of a growing number of schools embracing sustainable design and construction. Just a few years ago, the concept of “green schools” was a vision of the future. Trailblazers such as the Bertschi School Living Science Classroom in Seattle, which achieved the rigorous Living Building green building standard, demonstrated the bold belief that applying green design and construction principles to school facilities could positively impact the learning and teaching experience.
Today, students and teachers across the country are realizing the benefits of learning and working in optimized green environments. As the USGBC’s Center for Green Schools notes, “Green schools reduce the environmental impact of buildings and grounds, have a positive effect on student and teacher health, and increase environmental literacy among students and graduates.”
For more on green schools, check out our new infographic on the future of sustainable design and construction for K-12.