Large urban and smaller sub-urban districts alike are increasing their focus on building schools that are certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program because this practice results in more state funding. Schools get funding based upon population – the actual number of students that they teach every day- not the number of school age children living in their district. That is a number that is taken daily called attendance.
If 40 percent of a school district’s population is not showing up, that district will receive 40 percent less state funding than may be deserved. While the goal of the school district may be to educate our children, the first task is to get kids to show up. This is not just for all the right reasons, such as, the importance of learning and that it is in the best interest of society in general but also because that is the way the school district gets paid.
Statistics show that building more sustainable spaces results in increased student attendance over schools constructed with outdated techniques and materials (and decreased staff absenteeism due to illness). Building sustainably also improves the acoustics and indoor environmental quality of the building. Incorporating acoustical ceilings, noise reducing gypsum wallboard and adequate levels of insulation contributes to the creation of optimum learning environments. Recent studies have shown that optimizing learning space acoustics ultimately improves student retention and test scores (another critical metric by which schools are judged).
For some urban school districts, the school buildings themselves may be the nicest spaces that the child will be in all day. While this is considered collateral benefit, it’s well worth it for the school district to invest in sustainable spaces because the children feel better, they are healthier, more positive about the experience and will be in the classroom on a more consistent basis.
If you look at the upfront costs to build a school, why would a school district strapped for cash build a school above and beyond code? Because it will pay for itself!
Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation