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Green School Project completes first phase

Local U.S. Green Building Council chapter’s green classroom renovation is ready to begin construction

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: April 25, 2012 12:05 PM

The United States Green Building Council’s Orange County chapter has completed the first phase of planning and installations at Davis Magnet School in Costa Mesa. The Green Classroom Project is a plan to renovate and “green” an existing classroom at the school.

The classroom “greenovation” will include a new energy-efficient HVAC system (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), day-lighting and natural light installations, and improved acoustics. A second classroom will serve as a control, with no green upgrades, to illustrate the difference in environmental improvement and other factors.

Wendy Rogers, chair of the Green Schools Project for the USGBC-OC, explained that the benefits of greening the classroom translate to lower facilities and operating costs and healthier learning conditions.

“The economic environment that our public schools operate in is challenging. Green schools can be part of the solution. Less money spent on facility costs can be spent on our students for books, computers or even a teacher's salary,” Rogers said. “Good teachers are the most important factor in improving student performance, but healthy school facilities contribute significantly as well. Healthy indoor air quality and classroom acoustics are just two elements of green schools that can contribute directly to enhanced student and teacher performance.”

The first phase of the project, which included the installation of air-quality monitoring equipment in both classrooms, was completed in December of last year. The equipment’s sensors are collecting information on carbon dioxide levels, temperature and humidity, as well as tracking information on energy usage, distinguishing between energy consumed by lighting, outlets, heating, air conditioning and ventilation.

Phase II of the project will begin in the summer, while the students are on break. During this phase, the classroom will be retrofitted, with any necessary construction and heavy equipment installations.

While Davis Magnet School is publicly funded, the project does not rely on any sources of public funding for its support; instead, corporate donations from local and national firms, including Disney, LPA Inc. and McCarthy Building Cos., have allowed the project to move forward. Contributions from Disney and Sunbelt Controls provided funding for the materials and the labor necessary for the monitoring systems installed in Phase I of the project.

Rogers explained that there are already a number of green schools in the region; the seventh in Orange County, Stonegate Elementary in the Irvine Unified School District, opened in September 2010. Her hope is that the Green Classroom Project at Davis Magnet will encourage other districts and communities to consider greening their school campuses.

“It’s not just for the students, but also for the good stewardship for our dollars,” she said, describing the project as “a good incentive for other school districts that might be wavering, to see the data, the change in air quality and energy use.”

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