Sustainable design can be integrated into school sites to increase staff and student morale, and improve student behaviour by providing stimulating and interesting learning environments in which to work and play. Sustainable development ideas can also be used to link schools and their communities in shared projects and programmes that heighten awareness of the environment and management activities.
School and community buildings, grounds and programmes provide a rich resource for learning through observing, participating and applying environmentally sustainable development features.
Building management systems can be incorporated to transmit data such as CO2 levels, energy consumption rates and water usage as well as the overall health and efficiency of their learning environments. Significant savings can be made on operating costs through models of energy efficiency and use of renewable energy. These include creating a low carbon footprint, showcasing wind, solar and bio-fuel sources, and demonstrating waste water and rainwater collection and re-use.
The following list summarises some of the actions already being taken to promote environmental awareness and to increase student participation in managing and respecting the environment.
• Site selection. The Scottish Executive publication School Design: Optimising The Internal Environment (2007) concludes: “Understanding the site is probably the single most important tasks of the design team next to identifying the needs and aspirations of the client and users. In order to utilise the site to its full potential, it is important to recognise and understand the limitations of the site and use difficult or unusual features to maximise the possibility of a unique design. As such, it is possible to deign developing building options that are not only imaginative but also viable at an early stage. Furthermore, it will make the whole design process more efficient resulting in a higher standard of feasible strategies for the site” (p.15).
• Energy demand reduction measures including energy efficient equipment, glazing and window shading mechanisms, air tightness and heat insulation, automated control systems on natural ventilation, and heat recovery on mechanical ventilation systems.
• Alternative technologies and renewable energy sources including wind turbines and photovoltaic panels, solar thermal water heating, ground source heat pumps, earth tubes and boreholes for ventilation, heating and cooling.
• Correct orientation of buildings to maximise opportunities to create stimulating learning environments that use natural light and natural ventilation, and include appropriate placement of outdoor areas, gardens and water features.
• Maximum use of controlled natural ventilation enhanced by shading and operable windows and supplemented by automated wind-assisted ventilation chimneys for air extraction and night cooling systems.
• Natural light supplemented by low energy light bulbs, passive infra-red movement sensors to turn on and turn off lights and student “energy monitors” who analyse energy and water use to identify opportunities for reduction.
• Solar panels and photovoltaic cells to generate energy that can be used in the school or returned to the electricity grid.
• Rainwater harvesting so the water is collected, stored and used for watering plants, flushing toilets. Transparent pipes to show rainwater coming down the pipe to the storage tank.
• Electronic displays to show the amount of energy being used by appliances; the amount of rainwater collected and stored temperature management of the building, or water usage within the school.
• Landscaped areas including areas for storm-water collection which will recharge the aquifer, create pleasant recreational areas and provide an environment for wildlife.
• Earth coupled ventilation and under floor heating for areas that require this.
• Passive energy management through the use of a sedum roof and trombe wall to manage heat load effectively.
• Stimulating indoor and outdoor learning areas in which the students take an active role in monitoring, recording and managing information about the environments in which they work and play.
• Students’ science programmes set up to monitor and analyse energy, water use, rainfall and plant growth.
• Student involvement in growing, harvesting, processing and selling food, in its preparation and distribution and in managing the recycling of waste food.
• Student collaboration with the local authorities to monitor environmental conditions at local parks and reserves and to report on wildlife numbers and condition, e.g. the international frog watch programme.
• Publications, including guidelines, printed on recycled paper and able to be recycled also or online to reduce the amount of paper and energy used in production and distribution.
• Zero waste policy and its implementation to ensure that all products are recycled appropriately.
• Selection of building materials to ensure all products are carefully chosen and able to be recycled when necessary.
• Plantation or recycled timber, ensuring old growth timber is not used indiscriminately.
The examples outlined above are from projects in design or already completed. Details are found in the case studies provided in PEB Exchange, No. 61 and in the following publications.
CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) (2006), The Value Handbook: Getting the Most from Your Buildings and Spaces, CABE.
DfES (Department for Education and Skills) (2006), Design of Sustainable Schools: Case Studies, Schools for the Future series, DfES.
DfES (2006), Designing School Grounds, Schools for the Future series, DfES.
DfES (2007), Better Buildings, Better Design, Better Education, a report on capital investment in education, DfES.
Scottish Executive (2007), School Design: Optimising the Internal Environment, March.
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