HISD Workshop to Prepare Designers on Building Green Schools

Berry Elementary School, built under the 2007 bond program, has earned LEED Silver certification.

Water-collection systems, recyclable materials and healthier learning and teaching spaces are among the topics to be discussed at HISD’s “Sustaining Momentum” workshop for architect and engineering teams working under the 2012 bond program.

Ideas shared during the half-day workshop on Monday, July 29, will help district officials set sustainability goals for schools under the $1.89 billion construction program, which will replace or rebuild 40 schools across the city.

“Sustainability is an important part of 21st century learning environments,” said Dan Bankhead, HISD’s General Manager of Facilities Design. “We want to make sure our teams are challenged and inspired.”

The event will be held at Berry Elementary, an award-winning green school built under the 2007 bond program. Invitees include the design teams that have already been selected for the 24 schools in the first two phases of the bond program.

Attendees will hear about HISD’s Green School Initiative and identify strategies for achieving higher LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, which were developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to provide builders a framework and standards for green building.

Berry is the first public elementary school in Houston to receive LEED Silver certification, one of the highest available. The district hopes all schools under the 2012 bond program will achieve a minimum of LEED silver certification.

To earn LEED certification, a school must meet minimum requirements to earn points on a wide range of building practices, from the types of materials used to water efficiency and indoor environmental quality. Sustainable schools typically reduce energy and water consumption, provide better air quality, and utilize natural light to influence heating and cooling on campuses.

“Hopefully (the teams) will come away with what the district’s sustainability mission is, along with the minimum chart of sustainability points that we expect them to achieve on projects,” Bankhead said.  

The district already has enjoyed significant success in creating sustainable campuses. Seventeen schools built under the 2007 bond program are currently LEED certified, giving the district one of the highest number of LEED-registered schools in the nation.

HISD administrators say such buildings not only make financial sense, but improve student success.

“Sustainable conditions help students and faculty focus better,” said HISD’s Project Manager for Construction Services Matisia Hollingsworth. “If we follow a sustainable design principal in all campuses, it will promote better building performance and minimize our negative environmental impact.”

Terry Smith, president of Smith & Company Architects, said he welcomes the emphasis on green building strategies. His company was awarded the contract to design the new South Early College High School, which will be located on the HCC South campus at 1990 Airport Blvd.

“HISD is going to have a much greater impact on the environment through the bond program,” Smith said. “A $1.89 billion program will have a huge impact to energy usage not only during construction, but after the buildings are occupied.”

For South Early College High School, Smith and his team have already done an analysis on how to position the building on the site to make the best use of natural daylighting, while minimizing the solar heat gain.

“Most of the elements that go into becoming LEED certified are just good practice,” Smith said, adding that the upcoming workshop will provide a great opportunity for designers to share ideas to help create the most innovative and efficient designs for HISD and the community.