In recent years, Calgary school districts have opened a wealth of elementary schools in response to rapid growth in the City's new residential communities. To play right, many districts have committed to sustainable building initiatives by investing in LEED certification for these new builds. 3 Point alone has helped to certify over a dozen schools ranging from LEED Silver to Platinum. With these numbers, the impact on our education system is one that deserves a highlight.
Children growing up in a LEED certified school are exposed to the benefits that natural daylighting and improved indoor air quality have on their learning atmosphere. One can hope that they grow accustomed to the idea of energy efficiency from a young age, and that small affairs - such as seeing the playfield grass turn golden brown in the summer or the lighting automatically dim to null when the classroom empties - become the norm.
A big win results when schools commit to a Green Building Education program within LEED's Innovation in Design credit category. These programs incorporate the school’s sustainable systems into a learning exhibit with the aim of fostering an inquisitive mind
towards energy and water consumption – two of the most pressing matters younger generations will face in their next-up decades. Other notable green impacts stem from green space, stormwater management, and local food production initiatives wherein schools take on budding agritecture technologies such as vertical greenhouses, green roofs, and living walls.
Also growing in popularity are web-based programs that encourage sustainable thinking and environmental leadership in green schools. Learning Lab offers a plethora of coursework material for K-12 teachers. Green Apple Day Service is an international volunteer movement supporting projects that advance sustainability at schools. And then there’s Arc – a digital tool that tracks and benchmarks building performance.
Over the past year, the USGBC ran an Arc trial with select schools and has drafted the Arc platform into operations and maintenance performance tracking for the upcoming LEEDv4.1 O+M. For buildings certified under LEED Canada, Arc is free!
Engaging students’ minds on environmental matters encourages an awareness for their surroundings in both our built and natural worlds. It promotes interconnected thinking from the get-go, and in this way, supports the movement of solving problems from the source, starting with our minds, beginning with our perspectives. What better way to spread environmental education than by giving young minds a sustainable building to learn and grow in.