the newsletter of tbd consultants - 1st qtr 2012

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In this Edition

Jobs and Education
High Efficiency Schools
Virtual Classrooms

Construction Management Specialists

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Jobs and Education
Geoff Canham, Editor

The unemployment problem refuses to go away at more than a slow crawl, and in this article we look at how education can help the current situation and how its need will grow in future.


High Efficiency Schools


High efficiency schools are schools that use green building techniques to improve the learning experience for students and the working conditions for staff, improve energy efficiency to save money and to have less adverse impact on the local area, and demonstrate good stewardship of the environment.

Studies have shown that improving the indoor environment can have a marked effect on students’ scores, with improvement of 26% being seen for reading scores, and 20% for math. BCA Architects, San Jose, CA, presented information related to Christopher High School (above), the new, second high school in Gilroy, showing that API (Academic Performance Index) scores went up by around 7.5% overall for the new school compared to the older Gilroy High School where the students and teachers had transferred from. Also, Downer Elementary (below), San Pablo, was a tear down and replace project, and that resulted in API scores rising by 4.5% after the new school was completed. Energy savings and improvements in water usage of 33% have been shown to be easily achievable for green schools.

So we can see that real advantages stem from using green building techniques for schools, but don’t they cost more? It is certainly true that going green will usually add something to the initial costs of construction, especially if the school is pursuing a certification to prove its green building commitment. However, that cost premium is very small, usually in the range of 0% to 2% of the initial construction cost. But the cost of any building does not stop at the initial construction costs. When you look at the savings that accrue over the life of the building, taking into account energy savings, lower maintenance costs, and other benefits, the payback time can be counted in a handful of years. A study in a Capital E Report by Gregory Kats, from October 2006, looked at 30 school buildings and assessed the premium cost of building green to average out at about $3.00/SF, while the accumulated savings and benefits over the life of the schools averaged out at about $70.00/SF. A report by McGraw Hill showed benefits of building green included decreased operating costs, increased building value, improved ROI, increased occupancy, and rent rises, although not all of those benefits apply necessarily to schools.

So, you have decided to be sensitive to the environment with your school building program, and you want a nice shiny plaque to let everyone know you are building green. But then you find you have a decision to make, because there are two certification courses available: LEED for Schools and CHPS (Collaboration for High Performance Schools).

CHPS was the first of these green certification systems for school, starting in California in 1999, with the aim of addressing energy efficiency in schools. CHPS has since spread, and there are now CHPS certifications available in 11 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington) with Hawaii expected to join them around the time this newsletter is published. In that way, the CHPS certification has been tailored for local conditions. CHPS focuses on Sustainable Sites, Water, Energy, Materials, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Policy & Operations, and has 11 prerequisites and 85 available credits. To be CHPS verified you must meet all the prerequisites plus 32 credits, but you do not get any special recognition for getting more credits than that. Some documentation requirements are considered to be more stringent than with LEED, but certification costs are less.

LEED for Schools was introduced in 2007 (revised in 2009), and is based on the basic LEED for new construction and major renovation, with 10 prerequisites and 110 available points. There are four grades that can be achieved: Certified for achieving 40 to 49 points, Silver for 50 to 59 points, Gold for 60 to 79, and Platinum for 80 or above. The categories covered are similar to those for CHPS, except that there is nothing for Policy & Operations. There is a category for Innovation & Design Process, and it has a Regional Priority category for region-specific issues.

The issues addressed by both systems are similar, but of course there are differences. For instance, CHPS has a prerequisite about using the sustainable elements for educational purposes whereas it is an optional innovation credit in LEED.

So, which one should you choose? In many cases it is a matter of personal choice, but if your school happened to be outside the U.S. then you might choose LEED for Schools because it includes Alternative Compliance Paths for such projects.

But sometimes the choice is made by the pocket book. For instance, California Proposition 1D (HPS – High Performance Schools) established a method by which school districts could obtain additional funding by building green, and that system uses CHPS. Actually it uses 10 of the CHPS prerequisites and 75 CHPS credits for new construction (77 credits for major modernizations and additions). The category of Policy & Operations is not used, and there are some special requirements about energy points. A sliding scale, based on the number of points achieved, will let a school district obtain between 2% and 9% in additional matching funds over and above the basic grant.

Whatever rating system is chosen (or even if no certification is looked for) the goal should be to provide a better, healthier, learning environment that minimizes energy use and protects the environment.


Virtual Classrooms

The Internet is becoming an integral part of our lives in so many ways, and education doesn't escape its influence. Here we look at how the Internet is being used to extend the reach of educational institutions.



Design consultant: Katie Levine of Vallance, Inc.