Education Week - November 29, 2017 - SCover3
Getting buy-in from all key players-from school board
members to janitors-can be a commitment in itself.
Before opening four new schools in fall 2017,
Colorado's Boulder Valley school district brought
together architects, engineers, designers, project
managers, and maintenance workers to talk about
sustainable systems as a whole, and how individual
features would impact each other.
Some sustainable features can have drawbacks.
For instance, sun-absorbing artificial turf made with
ground-up tires, which can be used for playing fields and
other surfaces, can produce a "heat island" effect that
increases temperatures and off-gassing of chemicals from
"A lot of schools have gone way too far in adding it
everywhere, and it's creating a problem," said Shea
Cunningham, the chief sustainability officer and executive
strategist with Los Angeles-based Balanced Approach,
which helps school districts with sustainability planning.
"There's a coconut-based filter that's nontoxic, which is
an improvement, but it's not widely used."
Research shows that ambient air pollution and
limited access to daylight have been associated
with chronic absenteeism, poor performance, and
medical issues. Districts that want to stay ahead of
potential health problems can get Environmental
Product Declarations, which disclose potential
impacts of construction materials, and Health
Product Declarations, which disclose potential
impacts to people. Declarations can be found through
voluntary and membership organizations such as the
International EPD System and the Health Product
Declaration Collaborative. Whatever the design and
subsequent plan, districts need to be prepared for a
"This isn't something that happens overnight, and it
doesn't happen with just one project," said Lueders from
Missouri's Parkway district. "It's a continual evolution.
You celebrate your successes and keep on driving." n
Siwikar Patel/Education Week
to operate, hiring out for quarterly repairs, or simply
accepting that the equipment won't operate at optimum
"We have to make sure that in our zeal to design superefficient buildings, we don't lose track of the abilities of
our clients," said Denver-based Paul C. Hutton, a member
and past chair of the American Institute of Architects
Committee on Architecture for Education.
As principal and chief sustainability officer at
Cuningham Group, a firm that designs schools and other
projects, Hutton has seen a recent rise in clients from
Colorado, California, and the Upper Midwest using LEED
standards as guidelines without pursuing certification.
"Maybe you could argue LEED is a victim of its own
success," he said. "It was expensive before, but it's even
more expensive now."
Heming, of the Center for Green Schools, estimates that
LEED certification for a 95,000-square-foot school, built
at average construction costs for $24.3 million, would total
Mirrors are used to reflect natural light
throughout Discovery Elementary,
one of the school's design elements.
Bond Market Offers
'Green' Funding Option
BY ROBIN L. FLANIGAN
ant to use some of your school construction
money with the aim of supporting a cleaner
planet? Hoping to leverage the promise
of energy efficiency and environmental
responsibility to finance big-ticket projects?
One option: so-called "green bonds."
Green bonds tie capital raised in bond
issues to projects with eco-friendly or climate benefits such as energy
efficiency, clean water, renewable energy, clean transportation, or
habitat restoration. They are purchased largely by pension funds,
individuals, institutions, asset managers, and insurance companies.
Such bonds are a growing segment of the national municipal-bond
market: The ratings agency Moody's expects $120 billion in green bonds
to be issued this year, up from a record $93.4 billion in 2016. They
give school districts and other public entities interested in low-carbon
projects an attractive way to invest.
One prominent recent example: the 74,500-student Fort Bend
Independent school district in Sugar Land, Texas, about 20 miles
southwest of Houston. It was the first district in the state to issue green
bonds, for the construction of three new environmentally sustainable
elementary schools. The district issued $99 million in tax-exempt
bonds in April, and approximately $52 million of those were designated
as green bonds, part of a $484 million bond package approved by the
district's voters in 2014.
Issuing green bonds "demonstrates our conservative approach to
managing our building program," said Fort Bend Superintendent Charles
In its second and most recent transaction, Fort Bend sold $45 million
in green bonds for a three-year interest rate of 1.35 percent, along with
$50 million in regular bonds for a four-year interest rate of 1.5 percent.
"It's not an exact science because you don't really know whether the
lower interest rate was because the bonds are green or because they're
for three years instead of four, but it's inexpensive, and the district is
happy about that," said Steven Bassett, the district's chief financial
officer. "It doesn't hurt, that's for sure." n