Thursday, November 12, 2009

2 from School Construction News: GREEN SCHOOL RETROFITS + DON’T CUT THE M & O BUDGET

Green School Retrofits: Just because you aren’t building green schools doesn’t mean you can’t make an existing school facility green.

By Rachel Gutter | School Construction News - Nov/Dec 2009

Rachel Gutter is director of the Education Sector of the U.S. Green Building Council.>>

Sometimes the Greenest School is the One You Already Have

Just because you aren’t building green schools doesn’t mean you can’t make an existing school facility green.

Green schools don’t have to be new schools. By improving the operational efficiency and environmental performance of existing facilities, you can make the most of your school buildings and ensure that every student, teacher and staff member in your district can enjoy the health and performance benefits of a green school.

There is a lot of work to be done to deliver the greenest, healthiest, most cost-effective school buildings possible, but the payoff will be enormous. Greening your school buildings will significantly drive down operating costs while improving student and faculty comfort and productivity.

Unlike new construction, the greening of existing facilities is a journey, where success occurs through a series of incremental improvements to building performance, operational policies and maintenance practices. Your district has probably already set off down this path. If you have implemented a recycling program, introduced energy-efficiency practices or identified water-saving strategies, you are well on your way.

The LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EB: O&M) rating system provides a set of performance guidelines that can function as a roadmap for ongoing improvements to your building stock and operations and maintenance practices.

The rating system identifies and rewards current best practices and provides an outline for buildings to use less energy, water and natural resources; improve the indoor environment; and uncover operating inefficiencies.

The rating system addresses a building’s physical systems (equipment, design, land use, etc.) and the way the building is occupied and operated (waste management, temperature monitoring, cleaning, etc.). Although LEED certification is awarded to individual buildings, the majority of credits in the LEED-EB: O&M rating system involve sustainable programs, policies and plans that are best addressed at the district level.

When aligned with your capital improvements plan, building system upgrades will not incur new costs, and will instead take place during scheduled retrofits or renovations that have already been budgeted and approved.

When undertaking facility improvement projects, make sure that they meet the requirements set forth in the LEED-EB: O&M rating system.

Start Small

Consider identifying one or several school facilities to take part in a green existing schools pilot program and register the facilities for LEED certification. The lessons learned from the pilot will help to streamline the certification process for future schools and facilities.

One of the most important factors to consider when identifying the best candidates for a pilot program will be the building’s Energy Star rating. A building must achieve an Energy Star rating of at least 69 to be eligible for LEED-EB: O&M certification.

Determine the current energy performance rating of the schools in your district using EPA’s Portfolio Manager. Portfolio Manager is an interactive, online tool that allows you to track and assess energy and water consumption, performance and cost information for individual buildings and building portfolios. Based on monthly utility data entered into the online tool, Portfolio Manager will rate the current level of energy performance of your school buildings.

Even in a limited pilot scenario, navigating the greening process may seem overwhelming at first, but the U.S. Green Building Council’s new Toolkit for Green Existing Schools provides comprehensive guidance for schools and school districts that wish to green their existing facilities, realize measurable results and achieve LEED certification.

The toolkit, which includes a project management guide and a workbook with policy and planning templates will help you chart your course toward becoming a truly green district. Additional toolkit resources with online training modules will be available in 2010.

A green schools toolkit and other green schools resources can be found at


Protect Your Investment: Don’t Cut the M&O Budget

By William S. DeJong | School Construction News - Nov/Dec 2009

< William S. DeJong, Ph.D., REFP, is CEO of DeJONG, an educational facility-planning firm based in Dublin, Ohio.

Conditions in world financial markets have improved and activity in the U.S. housing sector has increased, but the economy is still not good for school districts. Many are making substantial budget cuts, often including maintenance and operations.

It’s pretty obvious that school districts must maintain their facilities to protect the investments they’ve already made in new construction and major renovations. However, it’s often not easy to convince the people who hold the purse strings. That’s why it’s time to look to the past for lessons learned.

The current situation is reminiscent of the early 1980s. During that economic turndown of double-digit inflation, school districts experienced many of the same circumstances: money was short, enrollment was declining and maintenance and operations budgets had to compete with other operating costs, such as rising utility bills and teachers’ salaries. This resulted in fewer custodians and maintenance staff, as well as materials and supplies. It also gave new meaning to the term “deferred maintenance.”

Unfortunately, the deferred maintenance of the 1980s is a major reason so many buildings were replaced or renovated during the past decade.

One of the more dramatic examples of this situation was a large middle school in an urban district of the Midwest. I visited the school in the early 1990s and witnessed what happens when the maintenance and operations budget is cut.

The school had an indoor pool, but the filtration system had failed. No funds had been set aside to fix the filtration system, so the pool closed. Within several months the pool was drained and the building’s heating system was turned off. After going through a winter without heat, the roof failed. Not only did this ruin the ceiling, but it also caused rapid decay within the interior. The district had two choices: undergo a major renovation or replace the pool. This is a perfect example of short-term savings having a long-term cost effect.

Recently the Council of Educational Facility Planners International bestowed an award on an urban school for undergoing a comprehensive facility planning process resulting in educational facilities that serve the needs of students, staff and the community. Indeed, it was a great project.

Ironically, I visited the school several months prior to the award and was surprised to find five-foot weeds surrounding the building, as well as other evidence that the building, even though brand new, was not being properly maintained. Unfortunately, there is often a mentality that a new school doesn’t need ongoing maintenance. But like a new car, it will eventually fall apart if it doesn’t undergo proper maintenance.

Several states have attempted to protect school facility investments by requiring local districts to implement maintenance plans that establish sinking funds and/or earmark tax revenues for maintenance and operations. Unfortunately, not enough states have mandated these requirements, which mean insufficient funds are allocated for maintenance and operations.

Budgets are tight and school districts are caught between a rock and a hard place. There is no cookie-cutter answer to this problem, yet the overall premise is clear: further maintenance and operations budget cuts will have negative long-term consequences.

This is certainly not the time to cut the maintenance and operations budget because short-term savings have a long-term effect. It’s imperative that we learn from our past to protect our facility investments now.

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