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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning 9 Processes and Practices for Planning and Maintaining Green Schools School systems today are facing more difficult challenges than ever before. Meeting the financial challenges of building, operating, and maintaining school buildings that foster student achievement is an issue for every school district in the country. Research on a wide variety of building types over many years has demonstrated the importance of four things: Effective planning processes as a key ingredient to improving project success (NRC, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2000a, 2001; FFC, 1998, 2000, 2003); Early involvement of key stakeholders in the preproject planning process (FFC, 2000, 2003; NRC, 2000a, 2001); Developing a performance measurement system, including facility postoccupancy reviews, in order to understand and improve the facility delivery process (NRC, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2000a, 2001; FFC, 1998, 2000); and Effective training of personnel in the process and technical aspects of preproject planning and in the entire facility delivery process (FCC, 1987; NRC, 1998a, 2001). The committee has identified additional processes that can be employed to more effectively plan, test, operate, and maintain green schools so that total life-cycle costs are decreased and total building performance is increased. Adopting a systems philosophy of design that considers the interactions of building systems and other factors, as discussed in Chapter 1, could result in schools that are more cost-effective over their
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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning entire life cycles. Building “commissioning,” a quality assurance process that has proven benefits and is often cited in green school guidelines, is yet another approach. Chapter 9 focuses on several processes that the committee believes merit inclusion in green schools guidelines: Participatory planning; building commissioning; monitoring building performance over time; post-occupancy evaluation; and training for educators and support staff. PARTICIPATORY PLANNING For decades, educational and community leaders have discussed the components of a successful educational program but paid scant attention to the school building as a component in the educational process. Today, there is sufficient research available to demonstrate associations between the performance of school building systems and student achievement and student and teacher health. Thus, it is clear that school facility planning amounts to more than simply ensuring the safety of bus drop-off points and specifying the required number of classrooms. Inadequate planning for schools carries fiscal, human, and academic costs. Whether a school building is old or new, problems in design can take a significant toll. Classrooms with ambient noise can distract attention from the best-prepared lesson plans. Drab interiors, poor lighting, and the lack of pleasant social gathering spots make a school less than inviting as a place to work and learn. On the other hand, a strong facility planning process can result in significantly lower operation and maintenance costs over a facility’s service life and a pleasant and healthy environment. A strong facility planning process involves asking the right questions, including a full range of stakeholders, and having a clear sense of purpose. Research by the National Research Council (NRC), the Construction Industry Institute (CII), the Business Roundtable, and others points to the importance of conceptual or advance planning to facility acquisition and operations. It is during the planning process that the size, function, general character, special attributes, location, and budget for a school are established. Errors made at this stage can manifest in inadequate space allocations, inadequate equipment capacity, over- or undersized building systems, and so forth. The cost influence curve (the solid curve in Figure 9.1) indicates that the ability to influence the ultimate cost of a project is greatest at the beginning, during the conceptual planning phase, and decreases rapidly as the project matures. Conversely, a project cash-flow curve (the dashed curve) indicates that conceptual planning and design costs are relatively minor and that costs escalate significantly as the project evolves through procurement, construction, and start-up phases.
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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning FIGURE 9.1 Cost influence and cash flow curves. SOURCE: FFC (2000). As noted in Chapter 1, there are many stakeholders in school buildings: architects, engineers, school boards, administrators, business managers, students, teachers, staff and other building users, and elected officials. Typically, however, decisions about school facilities tend to be made by a few people who are not themselves building users, often ignoring the direct involvement of teachers and students. Involving a building committee does not by itself always solve the problem of gaining schoolwide support for a project once the design work is completed. A process that allows for face-to-face contact between users and those who influence the decisions, however, can result in a sense of ownership by all stakeholders. Involving a full range of stakeholders in the planning of a school is challenging and places serious demands and responsibilities on all of the participants. A well-designed participatory process requires planning and management. The goal of participation is to encourage people to learn by giving them the opportunity to examine new educational environments. For this to occur, the process should be transparent, open, and encouraging of dialogue, debate, and collaboration. As more people learn about educational issues, their decisions can have positive effects on the quality of the learning environment. Participation means that parents, teachers, students, educational administrators, and public officials must engage in a dialogue about requirements and resources (Sanoff, 2001).
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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning Sound design and planning principles should also be incorporated. Although people may voluntarily organize to participate in community projects, the technical complexity of such projects calls for professional assistance. Without guidance, community groups, teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders may respond only to crisis situations and may not achieve the overriding project goals. Thus, good planning for effective community participation requires thinking about goals and objectives, options, resources, timing, and strategies before the first public meeting. Various techniques for stakeholder participation are available, each with a different function. An evaluation of existing facilities, consisting of interviews of teachers and students followed by a walk-through evaluation by architects and engineers, can incorporate the knowledge and experience of students, staff, and teachers. This information can then be integrated into the predesign or programming stage of a new facility when building users set goals and priorities. Small group discussions can create a genuine, productive dialogue that allows people to consider many different viewpoints and to get past political disputes and will enable a thorough examination of the issues, the development of new ideas, and the establishment of common ground for constructive action. Community surveys, review boards, advisory boards, task forces, neighborhood and community meetings, public hearings, public information programs, and interactive cable television have all been used to encourage stakeholder involvement with varying degrees of success, depending on the effectiveness of the participation plan. It is also during the planning phase for a green school when measures should be taken to ensure that the school operates as intended over its entire service life. These measures include commissioning the building(s) and monitoring building systems over time, which are discussed below. BUILDING COMMISSIONING: QUALITY ASSURANCE FOR BUILDING PERFORMANCE Building commissioning is a systematic quality assurance process that is often recommended in current green school guidelines. It seeks to assure before occupancy that a building performs in accordance with the stated design intent and the owner’s operational needs. The commissioning of buildings is patterned after the U.S. Navy’s process for commissioning its ships—namely, by taking them out for a “test drive” and subjecting them to a battery of tests so that they do not fail when they are exposed to the high seas. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. (ASHRAE) published its original guidance document on commissioning heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC)
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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning systems in 1989 (ASHRAE, 1989). The guidance was recently updated in ASHRAE Guidelines 0-2005, The Commissioning Process (ASHRAE, 2005). The guidelines call for the commissioning processes for new buildings to be “focused on verifying and documenting that the facility and all of its systems and assemblies are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated, and maintained to meet the owner’s project requirements.” Under the new ASHRAE guidelines, the commissioning process begins during planning and continues through occupancy. The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) serves as the secretariat for the development of a set of Guidelines for Total Building Commissioning. Table 9.1 lists the building components for which NIBS and its associated organizations have developed detailed commissioning procedures. Other organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council (www.usgbc.org) and the Building Commissioning Association (www.bcxa.org) have been active in developing commissioning guidance and certification for commissioning agents (those who perform the commissioning TABLE 9.1 Building Components Included in a Comprehensive Building Commissioning Process and Relevant Organizations Commissioning Elements Organizations with Information Mechanical and energy management systems American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers Structural systems Structural Engineering Institute and American Society of Civil Engineers Electrical systems Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Lighting systems Illuminating Engineering Society of North America Plumbing systems American Society of Plumbing Engineers Fire protection systems National Fire Protection Association Roofing systems National Roofing Contractors Association Exterior envelope systems Building Environment and Thermal Envelope Council Elevator systems American Society of Mechanical Engineers Seismic protection Building Seismic Safety Council Telecommunications systems Telecommunications Industry Association
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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning process). In addition, many state, regional, and national organizations are contributing guidance for the commissioning of new and existing buildings as well as for evaluating the findings, costs, and savings of commissioning projects. The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, through its “BetterBricks” initiative (www.betterbricks.org/commissioning), and the Portland Energy Conservation, Inc. (www.peci.org) offer practical experience with commissioning gained from years of working with utilities, developers, contractors, architects, and state agencies. Thus, a great deal of information is readily available on commissioning that does not have to be restated in this report. Instead, this report highlights aspects of commissioning that are critical to the process of designing, constructing, and operating green schools. Commissioning Process To be fully effective, a building commissioning process should begin in the school project planning phase and continue through design specifications and construction. If the commissioning process begins after planning or is restricted to specific systems. (e.g., HVAC, lighting), the potential to influence overall building performance and meet the design intent will be diminished. As originally conceived, building commissioning is an independent function serving the owner’s interest as well as the interest of the financing entity. As such, an independent commissioning agent (which may be a team of experts) serves as the owner’s agent. Tseng (2005) points out that several deficiencies in current practice have led building owners to be less than enthusiastic about commissioning requirements. First, the demand for commissioning exceeds the capacity of qualified firms. Moreover, engineering and architectural firms are “overstating” their commissioning expertise. As is clear from Table 9.1, a comprehensive commissioning program requires a wide variety of expertise not often found among architectural and engineering staff. By default, the energy performance of mechanical and lighting systems became the primary focus, while systems integration, training, longer-term building performance, and technological or design innovations are not properly addressed. In some cases, the quality of commissioning has become little more than a postconstruction “checklist” evaluation. Elsewhere, owners have chosen to set up a process using firms already under contract as opposed to an independent commissioning agent. This committee believes that using an independent agent to commission a green school could result in significant savings in both short and long-term operating costs, could help to safeguard public and private financial investments, and could reduce the risk faced by a building’s owners, operators, and occupants.
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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning Special Considerations for Commissioning Green Schools Designing and constructing a green school adds complexity to the typical facility project process. If certification as a “green” school is involved, the features that link to the basic requirements and to credits should be specified early on, in the design documents. Based on the committee’s findings in Chapters 3 to 7, a commissioning process for a green school should also include the commissioning of a number of nontraditional elements. These include (1) the building envelope, to ensure that moisture management measures such as vapor barriers, flashings, and roofs are properly installed, leaks are not present, and the potential for buildup of excess moisture has been mitigated; (2) acoustical measures and systems to ensure they meet ANSI Standard 12.60; (3) indoor air quality, to ensure that ASHRAE standards for ventilation are met; and (4) lighting systems to ensure that appropriate levels of light are provided for specific tasks and spatial layouts. The commissioning agent (a single person or a team of experts) should provide documentation for the building elements that relate to higher performance criteria, making sure these elements are not eliminated during construction or “value engineering,” where specification documents are often changed to reduce costs. A commissioning agent should have a broad range of technical expertise as well as knowledge of the green building certification process. The commissioning agent should visit the site often during construction to certify that specified equipment and materials are actually being used and installed properly. Benefits and Costs of Commissioning The potential benefits of building commissioning include these: Identification of system faults/discrepancies early in the design and construction process so that they can be resolved in a timely manner while the appropriate contractual entities are still on the job. Documentation that the facility operates in a manner consistent with the original design intent and that green design features were certified and appropriately installed. Improved documentation, training, and education for operators and facility managers about specific systems and their operation. Reduced operation and maintenance costs. Fewer complaints from occupants about discomfort and, in turn, fewer service calls to building operators during the life of a building.
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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning There is currently no standard approach to costing commissioning services. Two of the more common methods are these: Budgeting a percentage of the total mechanical/electrical cost of a project. A range of 2 to 6 percent is generally considered reasonable, with the higher percentages generally being utilized for those projects that are smaller or more complex. For accountability, setting up a separate commissioning budget that is independent of the project budget is recommended. Depending on the complexity of the building and the scope of work, commissioning costs might range between $0.10 and $0.80 per square foot. McCarthy and Dykens (2000) state as follows: “No matter what budgeting approach is selected, it is imperative that contracts with the general and specialized contractors specify their financial liabilities. Although the commissioning agent is initially paid by the owner, additional charges incurred by the agent will be paid by the contractors if systems fail or cause delays to the schedules established for the commissioning.” MONITORING BUILDING PERFORMANCE OVER TIME The significance of time to the performance of a school building cannot be overestimated. No matter how positive the design, engineering, and construction of a green school, ongoing, timely maintenance and repair of systems will be critical to outcomes of health, learning, and productivity: The process of creating and maintaining a green school does not end at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Throughout this report, emphasis has been placed on the importance of effective operation and maintenance of building systems over the 30+ years that a school building is used for educational purposes. Ensuring effective operations and maintenance, like effective building commissioning, begins during the planning phase for a new school. For example, if one of the owner’s objectives is to use durable, moisture-resistant materials, this objective must be stated as a requirement during planning and transmitted as such to the designer. Similarly, if building equipment and systems are to be easily accessible for maintenance, repair, or replacement, they must be designed with that objective in mind. Once installed, materials and building systems are difficult to move and expensive to retrofit. Thus, omissions and errors in the planning phase may have repercussions for a building’s performance and operating costs for 30 years or longer. If a green school’s potential health and productivity benefits are to be achieved and maintained over its service life, monitoring or diagnostic feedback about the performance of the building systems is also required.
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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning As with other operations and maintenance features, an effective diagnostic feedback system should be considered during planning. Building diagnostics has been defined as a set of practices that are used to assess the current performance capability of a building and to predict its likely performance over time (NRC, 1985). The essential elements of a building diagnostics program are as follows: Knowledge of what to measure; Appropriate instruments, sensors, and other tools; Expertise to interpret the results; and The capacity to predict the future condition of the building (early warning system). Ideally, a building diagnostics program enables a school facility manager to devise corrective procedures when a potential problem is first identified to keep a small problem from becoming a much larger, more expensive one. Building diagnostics deals with the measurement and interpretation of data and the relationship of those data to expected performance. Microprocessor technology has made it possible for manufacturers to include sensors and other intelligent controllers on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, chillers, boilers, and other building systems and features. Monitoring systems are available that draw air from classrooms to a central location where it is measured for both carbon dioxide (as an indicator of ventilation effectiveness) and absolute humidity. Such systems also automatically log the data and plot and archive the results for review by the facility manager. Diagnostic systems make it possible to ensure that intended amounts of ventilation and relative humidity are provided at the time of occupancy and for many years thereafter. Existing sensor and microprocessor technologies also have the potential to monitor and manage a range of environmental parameters that are difficult to inspect and measure during routine site visits or inspections. For example, sensor nets can be installed behind walls and bulkheads or on roofs to monitor moisture levels and indicate where moisture buildup may be occurring (NRC, 1998a). Shared sensor systems are available that can monitor carbon dioxide, absolute humidity, and carbon monoxide (to indicate the effectiveness of anti-idling measures) simultaneously at multiple locations within a building. Diagnostic systems must be correctly operated if they are to function well over time. This, in turn, requires a workforce trained to properly operate and maintain such systems. Moreover, someone on the staff must be trained to interpret the information generated and take necessary corrective actions when a problem is indicated.
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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning POSTOCCUPANCY EVALUATION Postoccupancy evaluation (POE) is a method to measure and monitor building performance from the occupants’ perspective. POE1 has been defined as follows: A process of systematically evaluating the performance of buildings (or places) after they have been built and occupied for some time. POE differs from other evaluations of building performance in that it focuses on the requirements of building occupants, including health, safety, security, functionality and efficiency, psychological comfort, aesthetic quality, and satisfaction (FFC, 2001, p. 1). POE is one of a number of practices aimed at understanding design criteria, predicting the effectiveness of emerging designs, reviewing completed designs, supporting building activation and facilities management, and linking user response to the performance of buildings. POE is also evolving toward more process-oriented evaluations for planning, programming, and capital asset management (FFC, 2001). Conducting a POE a year or so after a building has been in operation has value for several reasons. First, from an energy and indoor air quality perspective, building performance needs measurement before it can be compared with benchmarked values and design specifications. Second, weather conditions challenge a building’s performance. Until the structure experiences variable weather conditions, its true performance cannot be determined. Third, occupants are perhaps the best monitors of acceptability. Occupant satisfaction and their perception of cleanliness, air quality, lighting, noise, and general functionality of the space should be assessed to understand if modifications are needed and to inform design for the next building renovation or construction project. Fourth, a POE may be used to identify problems that can be further examined by technical experts, who can recommend approaches to fixing the problems. Fifth, if incorporated into the institutional memory of a school district, POEs can inform the design of future school buildings by allowing it to repeat successful features and avoid mistakes.2 1 The term “facility performance evaluation” is used by some experts in the field. 2 The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards in the United States has commissioned a monograph, Improving Building Performance, which contains case studies by major architectural firms in the United States that routinely conduct POEs as part of their in-house efforts to build knowledge bases and to learn from past successes and failures in building designs (Preiser, 2002).
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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning Approaches to Successful POEs Performance criteria for POEs for schools are based on the stated design intent and criteria contained in or inferred from the functional program. Measures include indicators related to organizational and occupant performance, such as student and teacher satisfaction and productivity and safety and security; they may also include measures of school performance as perceived by users—for example, air quality, thermal comfort, spatial comfort, ergonomics, privacy, lighting, comfort, noise, and aesthetics (Preiser et al., 1988). Several preliminary steps are required to prepare for on-site data collection. The client should be briefed on the nature of the process, the type of activities involved, and responsibilities before a POE is conducted. Research methods and analytical techniques should be determined at this stage. In addition, background information, such as building documentation and organizational structure, is necessary, as is the identification of liaison individuals, to establish a POE plan. The plan will include the development of specific information-gathering methods, sampling methods, authorization for photographs and surveys, and data-recording sheets. The type of POE used in a specific situation is a function of the time and resources available and the depth of knowledge necessary. Methods for collecting information include questionnaires, walk-throughs, and interviews, usually conducted with a committee representing a school’s organization. Questions ordinarily focus on issues related to performance, spatial adequacy, and image. A walk-through assessment of the entire facility relies on direct observation to verify issues that may have emerged from the questionnaire. Interviews and a summary of findings often conclude the process (Sanoff, 2001). However, a forum for the discussion of outcomes can raise the awareness of the benefits of the assessment. To bring the POE process to proper completion, any commitments made to participants should be acted on. TRAINING FOR EDUCATORS AND SUPPORT STAFF Green schools represent a significant public investment. To protect that investment and ensure optimal building performance, facility managers, teachers, administrators, support staff, students, parents, and community partners should be informed about the design intent of a newly constructed green school. The objective is to provide all occupants with the knowledge they need to play their role in operating and maintaining a school building’s environment so that it effectively supports learning and health.
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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning The people who will be directly responsible for optimizing a building’s performance are the facilities management and janitorial staff. Green school buildings potentially have sophisticated operating systems or new equipment or components that are unfamiliar to facility operators. Facilities staff, frustrated by complex lighting and ventilation systems, may find ways to override controls so that the systems do not perform as designed. Just as few parents would turn over the family car to a teenager without instruction and practice, so too should building owners give building operators and facilities staff proper instruction and training in how to properly operate and maintain the building and its systems. Similarly, janitorial staff should be trained in proper cleaning methods. For example, interrupting the transmission of infectious diseases from surfaces requires rinsing well after cleaning. This method of cleaning may be less effective if the surface is damaged or in poor condition. Results will be compromised by using a wiping cloth or material that is not initially clean or that is continually used without repeated decontamination. Training staff in proper methods of cleaning will require additional effort but should result in improved indoor environmental quality. Helping teachers understand the physical effects of the school building and, in particular, their classrooms on their own and their students’ health, well-being, comfort, and performance is critical. All too often, teachers pile books and other objects on classroom unit ventilators without understanding the potential adverse effects of blocking air flow. It is equally important to educate teachers about the effects of excessive noise on oral communication. As adults, teachers may not appreciate the additional problems that excessive noise creates for younger listeners. Used creatively, a green school can also be a teaching tool and a means of embedding curriculum development. Essentially, a school can serve as a three-dimensional textbook (Lackney, 2004) for teaching environmental science and policy and providing hands-on examples of technologies and practices for resource conservation, recycling, energy use, air quality, and the like. In addition, a school building can be used to help teach physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, environmental art, community building, and environmental policy. Administrators and business managers, faced with financial constraints, may not recognize the consequences of decisions to withhold full funding for routine or preventive maintenance. Deferring maintenance for filters, drip pans, coils and other items, for example, can result in excess moisture and mold, which, in turn, can result in student and teacher illness and absenteeism. These adverse health outcomes can result in loss of funding and increased health care costs. Training that focuses on the potential long-term adverse consequences of deferred school building maintenance
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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning for occupant health and school budgets, among other things, would help to inform financial decision making. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Tools for Schools program is a well-recognized resource for training related to indoor air quality. The indoor air quality kit, for example, provides both detailed guidance and links to other information resources to help with the design of new schools as well as with the repair, renovation, and maintenance of existing facilities. CURRENT GREEN SCHOOL GUIDELINES Current green school guidelines do not typically address participatory planning processes or postoccupancy evaluations. They do encourage the commissioning of specific building components such as the HVAC, lighting, and energy systems. The committee believes that commissioning for green schools should be expanded to include the building envelope, acoustics, lighting, and indoor air quality. The commissioning should be done by a third-party agent before occupancy of the school to ensure that the systems meet the design goals and support the actual use of the building. Some guidelines also encourage hiring a third-party reviewer in the design and construction drawing stages to ensure that the systems can be built and maintained as designed and at the end of the warranty period to evaluate the systems. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Finding 9a: Participatory planning, commissioning, and postoccupancy evaluation are processes that can both lower building operating costs and improve performance over a building’s lifetime. Current green school guidelines typically only address the practice of building commissioning. Finding 9b: Inadequate planning for schools carries long-term fiscal, human, and academic costs. A strong planning process requires asking the right questions, involving a full range of stakeholders, and having a clear sense of purpose. Finding 9c: A commissioning process that starts in the planning phase and continues through building occupancy can help ensure that a school building performs in accordance with the stated design criteria and the owner’s operational requirements. Effective commissioning for green schools requires specific expertise in nontraditional elements such as moisture control, indoor air quality, lighting, and acoustics.
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Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning Finding 9d: If a green school’s performance and potential benefits are to be maintained over its service life, building systems and features should be monitored. Such monitoring can include the use of sensors and other technologies that provide data about current indoor environmental conditions and the likely performance of a building over time. Finding 9e: Postoccupancy evaluations can help ensure the performance of existing schools and help improve the design of future schools. Finding 9f: Green schools represent a significant public investment. That investment can be undermined if educators, support staff, students, and other stakeholders do not have the knowledge or training to appropriately use or operate a green school. Recommendation 9a: Future green school guidelines should stress the importance of good planning processes that allow for the effective participation of a wide range of stakeholders. Recommendation 9b: Future green school guidelines should require for all new schools a building commissioning process that begins in planning and continues through occupancy. The commissioning agent should specifically verify that moisture-management features are properly designed and installed, that intended ventilation rates are delivered to building occupants, that the lighting system is adequately designed and installed to ensure effective lighting based on tasks and schoolroom configurations, and that acoustical measures meet the performance standards of ANSI Standard 12.60. Recommendation 9c: Future green school guidelines should encourage the periodic monitoring of indoor environmental characteristics including moisture levels, absolute humidity, classroom temperatures, and ventilation effectiveness to ensure that performance objectives are maintained over the service life of a school. Recommendation 9d: Educators, support staff, students, and other stakeholders should be informed of the design intent of a green school and given the appropriate information or training to fulfill their roles in using and operating a green school.
Representative terms from entire chapter: