High performance schools integrate the best in today's design strategies and building technologies. Even better, they make a difference in the way children learn. Research has shown that better buildings produce better student performance, reduce operating costs and increase average daily attendance. They also are more likely to maintain teacher satisfaction and retention and reduce liability exposure.
Deane Evans, FAIA, executive director of the Center for Architecture and Building Science Research at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), numbers among the nation's top boosters for high-performance schools. Evans, who is secretary chair of the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council, Washington, DC, touted high performance schools earlier this year as a panelist at the Rhode Island Schools Energy Summit in Warwick, RI and the Schools of the 21st Century Symposium in New Orleans..
A high performance school building provides acoustic, thermal and visual comfort for students and teachers, said Evans. It efficiently uses heating, cooling, and lighting systems and is fueled by renewable sources, when possible. Windows and skylights admit generous amounts of daylight, and buildings are safe and secure. Site planning is environmentally responsive, controlling glare from parking lot lights and storm water runoff. Plumbing systems make efficient use of water.
Such schools are cost-effective to own and operate. Systems and materials are chosen using life-cycle cost analysis, rather than the cheapest first-cost. During design, energy analysis tools optimize the building's performance, and after construction equipment is fine-tuned to operate correctly. Community members use the building during non-school hours; they also participate in the design process.
Such schools facilitate learning and if a school is not high performance, learning may be impacted. Spatial configurations, noise, heat, cold, light, and air quality obviously bear on students' and teachers' abilities to perform.
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