Charter Focus - Fall 2013 - page 8

Colorado League of Charter Schools
ccording to the
US General
Accounting Office, 14 million students
(over a quarter of all students) attend
schools considered below standard or
dangerous and almost two-thirds of
schools have building features such
as air conditioning that are in need
of extensive repair or replacement.
A large number of studies have found
that schools across the country
are unhealthy and are in a state of
deterioration, needing upgrades,
renovations, and improvements. The
American Society of Civil Engineers
gave public school buildings a D grade
on their overall condition.
Charter schools are all too familiar
with facilities woes- at times utilizing
disproportionate amounts of operating
revenue to retrofit existing commercial
spaces to simply ensure buildings are
up to code with little left to focus on
building design as it relates to the
health and wellness of all who work
and learn in them. Many do not have
the resources, financial or otherwise,
to ask the question, “Given the fact
that the children and adults in the
building need to breathe, hear, see,
move, and feel comfortable in a clean,
safe, and healthy environment to
perform at optimal levels all day every
day, is our school a place where this
happens? If not, how should we start
making improvements?”
As budgets grow increasingly limited,
why might charter schools consider
asking these questions and allocating
resources to improve their buildings
and create healthier learning and
study spaces? Given the opportunity
to construct a brand new facility,
why might school leadership consider
building a green or high performance
building? Often this includes energy
performance enhancements such as
more efficient and natural lighting,
more efficient heating and cooling
systems, and increased insulation.
It also may include using less toxic
materials to improve air quality
and attention to acoustic design to
optimize the teaching and learning
experience to achieve the school’s
mission more efficiently as well.
In his report, Greening America’s
Schools, Costs and Benefits, Gregory
Kats sets out to answer the question,
“How much do green schools cost, and
is greening schools cost effective?” The
report consists of a national review of
30 green schools in 10 different states
from 2001-2006. Costs submitted
by architects were analyzed for the
green and conventional versions
of the same building and some of
the cost estimates were based on
actual building performance while
others were based on architectural
and engineering estimates. His
findings suggest that green schools
cost approximately 2% more to
build ($3 more per square foot)
than conventional schools but the
direct benefits to schools equal $12
per square foot, which is attributed
to lower energy and water costs,
improved teacher retention and lower
health costs. They use an average of
33% less energy than conventional
Though potentially more expensive
upfront, these practices may reduce
facilities maintenance and operations
costs over time. But beyond the
financial benefits and efficiencies,
there is evidence that suggests
Despite the fact that approximately 49.8 million children PK-12 and 3.3 million
spent most of their hours in school buildings during the 2012-13 school
year, few states regulate indoor air quality in schools or mandate minimum
ventilation standards.
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