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Sustainable School Design : Operations
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
P2 Opportunities
Alternative Technologies
Case Studies
Glossary of Terms
Key Contacts
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Alliance to Save Energy: Saving Energy in Schools
This portion of the Alliance to Save Energy web site includes best practices for controlling energy ...

The Campus Environmental Resource Center--CampusERC--is intended to be a great library of resources ...

CHPS Best Practices Manual
CHPS has developed and maintains a six-volume technical best practices manual for high performance s...

Energy Solutions for Your Building
Resources include planning and financing, designing, constructing and renovating, choosing building ...

Environmental Design + Construction (ED+C)
Bi-monthly magazine covering the green building industry.

GLRPPR Educational Institutions Sector Resource
This Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) Sector Resource provides a compil...

Green Schools Project: Using Energy Efficiency to Strengthen Schools
The Green Schools program helps schools use energy efficiently through building retrofits, changes i...

Greening Schools
Greening Schools is a joint project of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the I...

Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool (HealthySEAT)
EPA has developed a unique software tool to help school districts evaluate and manage their school f...

High Performance Schools
US EPA's Indoor Air Quality Design Tools for Schools defines High Performance Schools, explains the ...

Historic Schools
Concern for the loss of schools provided incentive to develop case studies and guidelines for preser...

Illinois Resource Guide for Healthy High Performing School Buildings
This free resource guide is designed to introduce school districts to the latest ideas and strategie...

Midwest Buildings Technology Application Center (MBTAC)
This web site is a project of the Energy Center of Wisconsin and the University of Illinois at Chica...

National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF)
Created in 1997 by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Clearinghouse for Educational Faci...

NY-CHPS High Performance Schools Guidelines
The State Education Department (SED) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authorit...

School Operations and Maintenance: Best Practices for Controlling Energy Costs
Prepared by Princeton Energy Resource International, HPowell Energy Associates and the Alliance to S...

Smart Energy Design Assistance Center
The Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC) is designed to encourage for-profit small business...

Sustainable Schools
The Division of the State Architect (DSA) is committed to helping schools create high performance ed...

The Ashkin Group, LLC
The Ashkin Group is dedicated to creating healthier, more productive indoor environments with lower ...

U.S. EPA Healthy School Environments Portal
The Healthy School Environments Web pages are intended to serve as a gateway to on-line resources to...

U.S. EPA School Chemical Cleanout Campaign (SC3)
The Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign (SC3) aims to ensure that all schools are free from hazards a...

UIUC LibGuide: Green/Sustainable Building
This reference guide includes links to both popular materials and more technical information. It is ...

USGBC Build Green Schools
Launched on October 16, 2007 by the U.S. Green Building Council, this site is filled with profiles o...

<big><b>Sustainable School Design: Operations </b></big> This section addresses issues of construction and retrofitting, siting, commissioning and actual design of new and remodeled schools. A high performance, sustainable school refers to the physical facility. Before actually proceeding with construction, school designs must be properly commissioned. (See glossary.) Commissioning plans allow schools to be confident their heating, refrigerating and air conditioning systems (HVAC) meet the school's requirements.

California's Five Phases of Building Commissioning are as follows:
  • Program Phase
  • Design Phase
  • Construction Phase
  • Acceptance Phase
  • Post-Acceptance Phase
This is only one system that offers a documented process. This involves visual and physical examinations; functional performance testing; and a facilities performance evaluation. The California model usually conducts these a year after the building has been completed and occupied. A Facilities Performance Evaluation encourages continuous improvement from assessments. Steps involved are:
  • Adjustment and Review
  • Planning for Action
  • Constructive Action
This is only one of the models available. California has a comprehensive document that serves as a guideline from the State Architect for development of Sustainable Schools. These steps, or similar steps, can and should be considered for new construction, as well as retrofits of remodeled schools and historical schools.

Siting impacts all design and sustainability aspects of a new school building. This includes community and transportation access, energy use, waste management, indoor air quality, alternative energy sources, endangered species, and existing pollution. Factors to be considered include:
  • Existing Site Pollution--what was on the site prior to construction, what was removed, what is close that might create risks?
  • Environmental Siting--will the new school destroy undeveloped land or endangered habitats; will it increase urban sprawl? These are principles discouraged by Sustainable School Designs. Can existing trees be preserved?
  • Existing Infrastructure--is it possible to design using urban infill to create a new school more centrally located and accessible by the surrounding community?
  • Building Orientation--Energy consumption can be minimized by the orientation of the building to the sun and prevailing winds. This needs to be addressed in each region of the country as well as for each site. Orientation of a building will affect use of prevailing winds, daylighting, passive solar, and radiant heating.
  • Heat Islands--Building envelopes or surroundings can enhance or decrease energy consumption. Lack of vegetation and tree cover combined with high percentages of paved area will create higher HVAC loads. Placements of schools in areas that are both lacking vegetation and are surrounded by heat sources can reduce benefits of wind cooling.
  • Permeable Ground Surfaces--Stormwater management and water runoff concerns can be mitigated by careful construction and placement of parking lots, and by incorporation of landscaping features that trap excess sediment and fossil fuel contaminants that might run off into local watersheds. Use of rain gardens, gutters, retention ponds and filters, as well as slope of the site, need to be considered for managing stormwater runoff from schools.
  • Transportation--Rapidly increasing transportation costs and energy consumption are forcing reconsideration of siting elements. Consider traffic congestion and related air pollution when siting schools. Also consider access to mass transportation and bike/pedestrian travel.
  • Community Access--Is the school being built outside of the community or is it accessible to all who might wish to use the building as a community center? Can the school be accessed through bike or pedestrian travel? Is multi-use of the building considered in the design and siting?
  • Shared Use of Open Space--Does the location of the school make it possible for joint use of the school AND shared use of open space or existing/new parks? This reduces the environmental footprint of the school and maintenance overhead while allowing green space opportunities with local parks. Expenses for maintenance can be shared through partnerships.

The above siting and commissioning issues are only some of the design elements considered when developing sustainable schools.

Historical, Aesthetics, and Cultural Values

The Historic Schools Section at the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides guidelines for the preservation of historical and cultural schools and communities. The designs of historic buildings can seem daunting during retrofits, but strategies do exist for overcoming these issues. Resources will be included within this topic hub. The Preservation and Conservation Association (PACA), in Champaign County, Illinois, has examined this topic and provides a lengthy list of resources dedicated to historic schools. This is accessed from their home page under "resources--related websites." Scroll down the right side bar to locate education/schools.

Additional resources for Commissioning, Siting, and Historical Schools are provided at the bottom of the list on the right side of this page


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Sustainable School Design Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
Contact email:

Hub Last Updated: 8/2/2012