Government can save money by building green schools and retrofitting existing ones to be more energy efficient, but did you know that green schools can provide a better learning environment for students?
Improved health and productivity are additional benefits that can result from greener schools. In fact, anecdotal evidence demonstrates that cleaner air, brighter, natural light and closely monitored heat and cooling has had a positive impact across the board.
Kathy O’Sullivan, principal at Vancouver, Canada’s Charles Dickens Elementary, which has a LEED Silver Rating, commented:
“I think the air quality is definitely different, I noticed that right away from all the buildings that I’ve worked in.”
“And we do have some sickness, colds and the occasional flu, which is during certain seasons, but I don’t see a high absenteeism due to illness, so I think that’s a positive thing. I do see less dust and dirt.”
Now, researchers in the United States and Canada are looking to gather hard evidence of the positive effects of green school elements on children’s learning abilities. Right from the start, they are finding that sustainably-built structures provide superior learning environments than offered by traditional buildings.
Larger windows in green schools minimize the need for energy-sapping light bulbs. But they also provide children a connection to the outdoors, and boost mood and productivity. In fact, a 2003 study by the Heschong Mahone Group, found that elementary school classrooms with the most daylight experienced a 21% improvement in productivity compared to students in classrooms that had no daylight.
Green schools are constructed with paint, glue and carpeting that have low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Without the irritating off-gassing, students can literally breathe easier. Low VOCs help reduce the incidence of headaches, illness and respiratory problems. Plus, the air just smells fresher!
Today’s energy-efficient buildings are much healthier than those built in the 1970s. Airtight construction prevented clean air circulation, which often resulted in “sick building syndrome.” In addition, mold and moisture can accumulate, further sickening the people inside. Today’s green schools have windows that open up to allow fresh air inside, resulting in healthier, happier kids and a better learning environment.
Greener Buildings Are Healthier
The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) building on the UBC Vancouver campus, set to be completed this year, may just be the perfect laboratory for further research on the benefits of green schools. Some are calling it the “greenest building in North America.” The CIRS Building includes an on-site waste treatment center, solar and geothermal heat, and rainwater collection. And we’ll soon have evidence of just how such a green environment will benefit the students who attend!