When the architects and engineers design the 40 new schools under Houston Independent School District’s 2012 bond program, they’ll be creating buildings that make sense for education and the environment.
“Green schools provide better learning conditions for our students. The students are healthier and they perform better,” said Dan Bankhead, the district’s general manager of construction services. “The facility becomes a teaching tool and that makes it a win-win for everyone.”
In recent years, HISD has committed to building all of its new facilities to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) standards, which were developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to provide builders a framework and standards for green building. The district has made the same commitment for all new schools that will be built under the 2012 bond program.
“HISD has been building and designing schools that are both great places for students to be learning, but also great buildings that are favorable to the environment and long term building sustainability,” HISD Senior Project Manager Meredith Smith said.
HISD already has the second-largest number of LEED-registered schools across the nation, according to the Texas Gulf Coast Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.
Building schools to high environmental standards not only saves the district money with reduced-energy usage, but the buildings and various environmentally sound designs are being incorporated into students’ education.
In October, the Gulf Coast Chapter presented HISD with its Green Pioneer Award in recognition of the district’s “unwavering dedication to building sustainable schools for generations."
“For us, this is about more than just earning a certificate to hang on the wall. It’s about showing our children that we are committed to responsible building practices that preserve resources for generations to come,” Trustee Paula Harris said.
Trustee Harvin Moore pointed out that building environmentally responsible schools makes good financial sense. HISD’s current building program is coming in under budget, and utility costs are down compared to older schools.
“In HISD, we have learned that going Green doesn’t just preserve the environment. It’s also a sound fiscal strategy,” Trustee Moore said.
Berry Elementary, one of the newest schools in HISD, is projected to have a 38 percent reduction in water usage and nearly 25 percent reduction in energy usage. In addition, the environmental science magnet school uses collected rainwater to irrigate the lawns and gardens on the grounds.
All new schools in HISD are also built with priority on natural lighting, reducing energy usage.
The district’s newest high school, Carnegie Vanguard, features a green roof designed to reduce energy costs and serve as an outdoor learning laboratory. CVHS, as do other schools in the district, also features rooms designed for multiple purposes in an effort to reduce building footprints and save energy.
“What we instill in our students today is going to have a long-lasting impact on future generations,” Carnegie Vanguard High School Principal Ramon Moss said.
HISD currently has 10 schools with LEED certification with an additional 20 in the process of receiving certification.
That number is expected to go up with the 2012 bond program and as the district explores the feasibility of applying LEED standards to some older campuses, Bankhead said.