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Review and Assessment of the Health and Productivity Benefits of Green Schools: An Interim Report
materials and appropriate disposal to reduce resource depletion, and the introduction of commissioning practices1 to ensure the performance of integrated building systems. To address the life-cycle performance of schools, guidelines for operation and maintenance practices are also included, such as using nontoxic cleaning products, replacing air filters in ventilation systems on a regular schedule, and establishing a long-term indoor environmental management plan.
GREEN SCHOOLS VERSUS CONVENTIONAL NEW SCHOOLS
Given the lack of a generally accepted definition of green schools, the committee focused on differentiating land use, building design/engineering, construction, and operations and maintenance practices that are often highlighted in the green school literature and not likely to be introduced in conventional new school construction. The committee then identified research in the literature looking at the relationships between these characteristics and a performance outcome (health, learning, productivity) in students or teachers. A complicating factor is that building systems and characteristics operate in an integrated fashion to effectively deliver (or not) overall building performance in regard to thermal comfort; air, visual, acoustic, and spatial quality; and long-term building integrity. Further, this performance will be affected by the operation and maintenance of these integrated systems over time and by the occupants of buildings and their activities. Thus there is a need to synthesize the results so that potential trade-offs between certain features and practices can be identified.
The committee’s approach then was to identify those building characteristics that are emphasized in available definitions and guidelines as constituting green school design and differ from conventional new school construction norms. The committee also identified those elements that potentially have a level of importance for health and learning outcomes. In this interim report, the committee has focused on the following characteristics of green school buildings and their relationship to occupant health and productivity outcomes:
Building envelope, moisture management, and health;
Ventilation, pollutant source control, health, and productivity;
Lighting, performance, and health;
Acoustics, student learning, and teacher health; and
Building condition and student achievement.
THE ELEMENT OF TIME
The design and construction of a new school or the renovation of an existing one require a substantial commitment of resources—time, dollars, materials, expertise—by a community. Typically, once built, a school is used for educational purposes for 30 years or
Commissioning is “a quality-focused process for enhancing the delivery of a project. The process focuses on verifying and documenting that the facility and all of its systems and assemblies are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated to meet the Owner’s Project Requirements” (ANSI, 2004).