One in five Americans, or 55 million children, teachers and other school workers, spend their days in schools which are models of unsustainability and significant contributors to society’s health and environmental issues. What can be done to create green schools in Greenville, S.C. that are healthier with fewer toxic chemicals; serve more nutritious food; promote green building, ecological sustainability, and maintenance practices; lower resource consumption; and teach students to be better stewards of their school, community, and earth resources?
To see some new school modules of the future view the winners of the 2012 Australian “Future Proofing Schools” design competition sponsored by the University of Melbourne, the Melbourne School of Design (MSD) and the Australian Institute of Architects just announced. US$26,831 was the grand prize for the Educational Modular Offsite Design or eMod by architecture firm Architectus. The module can be configured to a site, climate and “learning outcomes” formulated by an app which is what so appealed to the judges.
The third place winner by Oliver Ebben from Studioquint in Amsterday presented these green features:
a landscaped rooftop,
components made from recycled polystyrene,
components that function as rainwater reservoirs,
thermal building mass onsite of local soil and plants,
and a three-dimensional design at a 20 degree
angle for efficient use of photovoltaic panels
with a high sun shield rate.
LAVA’s honorable mention entry’s green features were:
its small lightweight easily transportable
a manually operated facade adjusting light amounts,
the “three axis” geometry design for adapting to
changing class sizes, learning clusters
So what is happening currently in Greenville, S.C. to “green” the schools?
State senator Phil Leventis (D) of Sumter and Representative Doug Brannon (R) of nearby Landrum in November 2011 were part of the legislators group visiting Richardsville Elementary in Warren County near Bowling Green, KY, the first net-zero energy cost school in the U.S. With some architectural and engineering moves like putting the gyn in the middle making it cheaper to heat and cool, power demand was cut about four-fifths. A solar panel array largely covered by a federal grant generates power sold back to the utility company that covers the last fifth. The school was aligned with the sun’s path instead of the road in front of it to capture more solar energy, it has a screen tracking real-time energy use, a recycling hallway, a geothermal system, a “combi oven” using steam to cook food faster and reducing kitchen heating cost, and local produce lunches.
Square foot cost for Richardsonville Elem. was $182 versus the average primary school cost of $200 per the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities so green schools do not have to be more expensive. Every million dollars in energy savings each year for a county can pay for as many as 20 teaching jobs Rep. Brannon said. Ed Falco, project manager of the Palmetto Green Schools Network by the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, said that big school districts like Greenville County (largest in S.C.) spend between $17 to $18 million a year just on energy, equivalent to about 340 to 360 teachers’ jobs. Ed previously worked on energy-saving projects in the S.C. Department of Education.
Rep. Brannon serves on the House Education and Public Works Committee and said it will be tough in Columbia to pass a bill requiring S.C. districts with the “home-rule” people to follow suit. Could he be referring to someone like State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais who refused to nominate any S.C. schools for recognition of their green initiatives in the U.S. Department of Education’s new Green Ribbon Schools program in December 2011? Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia participated but not S.C. The Green Ribbon Schools program recognizes schools saving energy, reducing costs, fostering wellness and offering environmental education. Zais’ letter said the program’s requirements are too burdensome and that the government should work on academics rather than “creating a new program that isn’t focused on students, but rather placating environmental lobbyists.” He was referring to the federal program, not state. Does that imply that energy conservation, wellness and environmental education should not be taught to students?
Groups who are spearheading green schools for Greenville are:
Palmetto Green Schools http://www.palmettogreenschools.com
The U.S. Green Building Council S.C.chapter(USGBCSC) http://www.usgbc.org or call 843.329.3131
The USGBC Center for Green Schools has over 1000 volunteers all getting together once a year to talk about what they are doing to make their schools more green: http://www.centerforgreenschools.org or write Emily Knupp at: firstname.lastname@example.org
South Carolina has over 40 LEED registered and certified K-12 schools and thenumber is growing. The National Clearinghouse for Education Facilities has information on their website about federal funding for school construction: http://www.ncef.org/school-modernization
The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/green-ribbon-schools
For seven steps to a green school see: http://www.greenschools.net
Green Schools National Conference: http://www.greenschoolsnationalconference.org