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.


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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