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

Essential Links:

Integrated Design Process for Schools
Overall guidance, checklist, and key terms for using the integrated design process to achieve a high...

Renewable Energy Fact Sheets
Fact sheets for kids in English and Spanish, as well as for adults, and lesson plans provide backgro...

The High Performance School Design Charrette
How-to-guide on organizing and running a design charrette. Helps define what it is, when it should o...

<big><b>Sustainable School Design: Glossary</b></big>

This section defines some of the terms commonly used in both sustainability and pollution prevention for the person involved in the process of designing a sustainable school.Some terms, where referred to in the text, have links to outside sources that will help the reader understand the reference.

Commissioning is a quality-oriented process for achieving, verifying, and documenting that the performance of facilities, systems, and assemblies meet defined objectives and criteria. The commissioning process begins at project inception (during the pre-design phase) and continues for the life of the facility through the occupancy and operation phase. Commissioning includes specific tasks to be conducted during each phase in order to verify that design, construction, and training meets the owner's project requirements. 10

Green Construction:
See Sustainable Building

High Performance Schools:
"High Performance Schools" definitions vary, but according to U.S. EPA these are facilities that create improved learning environments and simultaneously save energy, resources, and money. The "key is understanding the lifetime value of high performance schools and effectively managing priorities, time, and budget during the design and construction process." This refers to the physical facility and it requires a "whole building" approach to the design process with consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system. 8

Integrated Pest Management (IPM):
"Integrated Pest Management" is an approach to maintaining insect, mite, disease, nematode, weed, or vertebrate pests at tolerable levels by using biological knowledge of pests and pest behavior to implement long-term, least-risk solutions. Pests and pest damage are monitored and action taken only when necessary to prevent damage from exceeding tolerable levels. Actions are selected with the least risk to humans, non-pest organisms and the environment, and are carefully timed for maximum effectiveness. Strategies are implemented to resolve factors that contribute to pest problems, avoiding the need to take action in the future. 9

Life Cycle:
Consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system, from raw material acquisition or generation of natural resources to the final disposal.1

Life Cycle Assessment:
Compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs, and potential environmental impacts of a product throughout its life cycle. 1 Also, a cradle-to-grave approach for assessing industrial systems that evaluates all stages of a product's life. It provides a comprehensive view of the environmental aspects of the product or process.5

Life Cycle Costing:
"Life cycle costing" is a means to calculate and compare different designs to identify the best investment. Districts can use it to assess the total cost of ownership for a facility over time. All of the building expenses that can be calculated are included in the analysis; including initial costs (design and construction), operating costs (energy, water, other utilities, and personnel), and maintenance, repair, and replacement costs. The values are adjusted for the time-value of money to represent the true value of the investment. Predicted costs for alternative design approaches can then be compared, allowing the district to select the design that provides the lowest overall cost of ownership consistent with the desired quality level.8

Pollution Prevention (P2):
"Pollution Prevention" is reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream. P2 means "source reduction," and other practices that reduce or eliminate the creation of pollutants through increased efficiency in the use of raw materials, energy, water, or other resources, or protection of natural resources by conservation. 4

Product Stewardship
"Product Stewardship" is a principle that directs all participants involved in the life cycle of a product to take shared responsibility for the impacts to human health and the natural environment that result from the production, use, and end-of-life management of the product. 2

Source Reduction:
"Source Reduction" means any practice, which reduces the amount of any hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant entering any waste stream or otherwise released into the environment (including fugitive emissions) prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal; and reduces hazards to public health and the environment associated with the release of such substances, pollutants, or contaminants. 4

Sustainable Building (also Green Construction) :
"Sustainable Building" is a building that can maintain or improve: (1) the quality of life and harmonize within the local climate, tradition, culture, (2) the environment in the region, (3) conserve energy, resources and recycling materials, (4) reduce the amount of hazardous substances to which human and other organisms are (or may be) exposed and (5) the local and global ecosystem throughout the entire building life-cycle. 7

Sustainable Development:
"Sustainable Development" according to the World Commission on Environment and Development, means "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sustainable development implies economic prosperity, environmental protection, and social well being. 6

Zero Waste:
"Zero Waste" is a philosophy and a design principle that includes 'recycling' but goes beyond recycling by taking a 'whole system' approach. Zero Waste maximizes recycling, minimizes waste, reduces consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired, or recycled back into nature or the marketplace. 3

Sustainable Design uses an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to whole-school design. This uses a variety of terms from all of the contributing components involved in sustainable design. Other topic hubs will provide additional definitions for designing sustainable schools, in particular see the IPM for Schools Glossary and the Energy Efficient Schools and Students Glossary. For a list of other resources, go to "Where to Go for P2 Help" in the Sustainable School Design topic hub.

Definition Sources:

1 American Center for Life Cycle Assessment (

2 Product Stewardship Institute (

3 Grassroots Recycling Network (

4 Pollution Prevention (P2) U.S. EPA (

5 Life Cycle Assessment: Principles and Practice, EPA/600/R-06/060 (U.S. EPA Risk Management Research)

6 Global Development Research Center (

7 Global Development Research Center, Green Construction, (

8 IAQ Design Tools for Schools, High Performance Schools, U.S. EPA (

9 IPM for Schools, Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) Topic Hub (

10 Division of the State Architect Sustainable Schools Resource (State of California) (


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