What is sustainable design?
As the World Commission on Environmental and Development defines sustainability, it is designing that “[meets] the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” By utilizing various techniques that reduce not only environmental and economic impacts, but also improve efficiency of the building, sustainable architecture is planning for the future. Creating sustainable schools positively affects the children, their health, and their education process in many ways; the following are some of many:
1. Improved learning and well-being
Extremely simple yet fundamental techniques such as ample daylight and successful ventilation can have direct, quick, positive effects on student performance. Collaborative for High Performance Schools did a study in 2003 that revealed that “better indoor air quality in schools results in healthier students and faculty, which in turn results in lower absenteeism and further improves student achievement… the effect of daylighting in schools [also revealed] that students perform better in daylit classrooms, as well as [indicated] the health benefits of daylighting.” For instance, the structures course for the Architecture department at California State Polytechnic University of Pomona was recently moved from a small, cold, dark room with no windows to a spacious hall with ample light and ventilation flowing through the space; the effects were obvious: the students were happier, the test results were improved, and the general attitude was far more positive. Sustainable architecture accounts for these fundamental techniques and therefore, brings about improved learning and well-being.
2. Higher sense of community
The trend towards sustainability is not only a necessity in today’s world for fiscal or environmental reasons, it is also a way to unite the community with a common cause. For instance, in a Ofsted and Gayford (2009) study that was done, it was found that when students and teachers were involved in activities such as “making improvements to the school’s grounds and habitats and growing food for the school kitchen,” there was not only a higher sense of responsibility but it also induced important skills such as leadership, participation, creativity, and sociability within the students. Working together causes the students to have a more enhanced and respectful learning environment and landscape that they can feel proud of changing themselves.
3. Saving not only energy but money and creating models for the future
Another major positive benefit of creating sustainable architecture is that it saves money that can be used for other sources. Various techniques and methods such as simple north-south orientation of the building, strategic placement of doors and windows in order to maximize cross-ventilation, use of cool towers and passive heating, and so on are always ways to induce sustainability into the architecture that would significantly reduce energy costs. This money can in turn be used to fund other supplemental programs for the students that enhance their education process; examples include tutoring sessions, art classes, community plays, culinary courses, and many more. This allows the school to also become a model not only for the community but for other schools as well. It brings about a positive change that affects many in various ways.