School Climate & Safety

‘Green Schools’ Go on National Display

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — March 12, 2013 4 min read
Sprout Space, a sustainable modular classroom, is on display this month in a new exhibit on design features of environmentally conscious schools at the National Building Museum in Washington.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The impact and design features of the growing number of environmentally sustainable school buildings are on display at the National Building Museum as part of an exhibit on green school space.

The exhibit, which opened earlier this month, also houses the first display of “Sprout Space,” a new sustainable modular classroom designed by the Chicago-based architecture firm Perkins+Will. Featuring solar panels, a low-flow toilet fed by rainwater, and large glass doors and skylights, Sprout Space is designed to improve health and educational outcomes, the firm says, while also reducing the cost of construction and eliminating energy costs.

Part of a museum series focused on sustainable design, the exhibit showcases 41 schools.

“It’s amazing to see how far this movement has come,” said Rachel Gutter, the director of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, based in Washington.

The opening coincides with the release of a report from New York City-based McGraw-Hill Construction focusing on the financial, health, and academic benefits of green schools.

Inside the Sprout Space classroom, a visiting kindergarten class from Peabody Primary Campus in the District of Columbia works on building a small city out of twist-ties, candy boxes, and paper-towel rolls.

As many as 45 percent of new school projects and retrofits undertaken in 2012 were “green,” according to Michelle Russo, a co-author of the report and the director of green content and research communications at McGraw-Hill Construction, a publisher of construction-industry news and information.

As defined in the report, a green school is one that is certified by Leadership in Energy and Environment Design, or LEED, a program run by the Green Building Council, or otherwise energy- and water-efficient and designed to foster air quality and conservation.

Chase W. Rynd, the executive director of the National Building Museum, an independent nonprofit institution chartered by Congress, noted that educators are often more understanding of the multiple benefits of green design than leaders in other sectors are. School administrators, Mr. Rynd said, tend to be “as interested in the health and learning benefits of buildings” as in “the financials.”

Health and Learning

Sprout Space, a sustainable modular classroom, is among the highlights of a new exhibit on green school spaces at the National Building Museum in Washington. Its outdoor seating and whiteboards are meant to encourage teachers to take students outside for lessons.

Schools are investing significantly in green buildings, according to the McGraw-Hill report, which drew from the results of a survey of 498 architects, university and K-12 school officials, and construction professionals. A third of the 137 K-12 school officials, for instance, said that 90 percent of their building work could be considered “green.”

Those respondents were drawn to sustainable buildings for a variety of reasons: to improve their schools’ reputations, enrollments, and finances, and their students’ and staffs’ health and productivity. Ninety-one percent said they believed that green schools improve students’ health and well-being. Sixty-nine percent said green practices improved their schools’ reputations and attractiveness.

The school officials surveyed cited finances as the biggest barrier to creating green buildings. But most respondents said they saw energy costs drop after construction.

There is a need for more research and metrics to clarify just how such buildings affect students’ learning and health and schools’ financial outcomes, according to the report.

But Darryl Alexander, the health and safety director of the American Federation of Teachers, says in the report that teachers often find that “the natural lighting, the acoustics, the air quality, and comfort really allow them to focus on their jobs more easily.”

Sprout Space

Allen W. Post, the lead architect for Sprout Space, poses at the museum. The contest-winning unit was designed by the firm Perkins+Will.

The National Building Museum exhibit showcases health- and sustainability-focused school programs, such as in-school worm composting, alongside design features like waterless urinals and acoustics-enhancing walls.

The Sprout Space classroom, which was conceived as part of a contest run by Architecture for Humanity and the Open Architecture Network, San Francisco-based nonprofits, exemplifies many of the features highlighted in the exhibit and the report.

Its solar panels supply enough energy to power the entire classroom. The low-flow toilet runs with water collected through a rainwater-collection system. Large French doors made of glass and a row of skylights fill the room with daylight. And an outdoor whiteboard is set on a wide porch, encouraging teachers to bring students outside.

Architect Allen W. Post, who led the design of Sprout Space, said that bringing innovative green and educational design practices together in the modular classroom is worthwhile because as many as 7.5 million U.S. students attend classes in temporary classrooms.

Many of those are in use far longer than they’re initially intended to be, he said: “In reality, there’s no such thing as a five- to 10-year classroom.”

Sprout Space is designed to last 40 years, and the architect said it is meant to be cost-conscious, quick to build, and adjustable to the needs of different schools.

The Sprout Space modular classroom will be used this year for programs at the National Building Museum, and Mr. Post said several districts have expressed interest in installing the modulars in their schools.

A version of this article appeared in the March 13, 2013 edition of Education Week as Sustainable School Spaces Go on National Display

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Webinar
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety More Schools Are Reminding Parents to Secure Their Guns
Some districts now send parents notices about their states' gun-storage laws, and the Oxford, Mich., shooting could prompt more to follow suit.
9 min read
Free gun locks at the Meriden Police Department, Fri., June 21, 2019. Police are providing free cable style gun locks to residents through a partnership witih Project Child Safe. The locks are available upon request at the front entry desk at the police station.
Free gun locks are available at the Meriden Police Department in Connecticut. Police there are providing free cable-style gun locks to residents through a partnership with Project Child Safe.
Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP
School Climate & Safety Oxford School Shooting: Could School Staff Be Charged?
A prosecutor steps up criticism of staff members' decision to allow the accused shooter to stay in school before the deadly shooting.
3 min read
Family, friends, students and relatives of victims put up bouquets of flowers, candles and personalized messages at a memorial near an entrance to the Oxford High School on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021 in Oxford, Mich. A 15-year-old boy has been denied bail and moved to jail after being charged in the Michigan school shooting that killed four students and injured others.
Family, friends, students and relatives of victims put up bouquets of flowers, candles, and personalized messages at a memorial near an entrance to the Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich.
Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP
School Climate & Safety Third Party to Probe School's Actions Ahead of Mich. School Shooting
A third party will investigate events at Oxford High School, the Michigan district's superintendent said.
5 min read
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer embraces Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter as the two leave flowers and pay their respects Thursday morning, Dec. 2, 2021 at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich. A 15-year-old boy has been denied bail and moved to jail after being charged in the Michigan school shooting that killed four students and injured others.(Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)
School Climate & Safety Explainer: How Unusual Is It to Charge Parents in a School Shooting?
Guns used in U.S. school shootings have often come from the homes of young perpetrators, but parents are rarely charged, experts say.
3 min read
This image from 52-1 District Court shows a Zoom arraignment for Jennifer and James Crumbley in Oakland Co., Mich., on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. The parents of Ethan Crumbley, a teen accused of killing four students in a shooting at Oxford High School, plead not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges. ( 52-1 District Court via AP)