At HISD, energy conservation and smart environmental design are important considerations in every new school. That’s why all new building projects under the current bond program are expected to meet certification requirements for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world and is used to measure the sustainability of design, construction, operation, and maintenance of buildings, homes, and neighborhoods. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED certification provides independent verification of a building’s green features, allowing for the design, construction, operations and maintenance of resource-efficient, high-performing, healthy, cost-effective buildings.
“We expect all of our architects to develop designs that will be LEED certified as the baseline, but we encourage them to do even better, to go for that next level, which is Silver certified,” said HISD General Manager of Facilities Design Dan Bankhead.
Currently, 17 schools in the district are LEED certified, and eight additional schools have certifications pending. Of those 25 schools, 10 qualify for the Silver certification and two, Cunningham and Sherman elementaries, qualify for Gold certification.
According to the USGBC, LEED for schools certification addresses issues unique to educational facilities such as classroom acoustics, master planning, mold prevention, and environmental site assessment, setting a high standard for high performance schools that are healthy for students, comfortable for teachers, and cost-effective.
For HISD, LEED certification means healthier, more productive schools, reduced stress on the environment by encouraging energy and resource-efficient buildings, and savings from decreased utility costs.
“LEED certified schools tend to be healthier schools,” said Kedrick Wright, HISD senior manager of facilities design. “The upfront cost of sustainable materials used to be higher, but now the cost is comparable to traditional products. Green schools are cheaper to operate and the building materials are more durable, so it’s also cost effective for the district.”
A typical LEED certified school will incorporate sustainable building materials and reduce volitile organic compounds (VOCs) used during construction. VOCs can be found in items such as adhesives, primers and carpeting, and emit chemicals into the environment which reduce air quality. Other common elements in green schools include plenty of natural daylight and items such as LED lighting and low flow toilets.
“We’re focused on it because it is the right thing to do,” said Bankhead. “HISD is one of the largest property managers in the city and it’s a rare opportunity that a district has the chance to rebuild 20 high schools and make major renovations to so many of their facilities. We have a really important responsibility to make good use of our resources – not just financial resources – but conserving our natural resources as well.”