Interior design is crucial in the education sector due to the well-documented links between design, productivity and the health and well-being of students.
In recent times, school designers have turned their focus to green – or ‘smart’ – classrooms. With major governmental pushes in countries around the world to encourage the various education systems to come on board with environmentally responsible practices and ideologies, the modern classroom is quickly transforming into the green classroom.
While retrofitting and developing new school environments to be drastically reduces carbon output, green building councils and designers themselves have also discovered that through the development of these greener, smarter classrooms, students’ performance can also be improved, as can the school’s bottom line.
No less an authority than the US Green Building Council (USGBC) has noted that “green schools are built and designed with strategies and technologies that aim to improve the quality of indoor air, which could lead to improved student health, test scores and faculty retention.”
The USGBC goes on to suggest that in green schools, interior elements such as lighting, temperature control, ventilation and air quality all meet much higher standards.
The green building authority goes on to suggest that green schools have dramatically lower operating and maintenance costs, with green schools saving up to $100,000 per year, “enough to hire two new teachers, buy 150 new computers, or purchase 5,000 new textbooks.”
These factors are outlaid in the USGBC’s ‘Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits 2006’ brief.
“Green schools are environmentally sound and provide measurable benefits that impact the occupants of the building and the financial bottom line,” the brief reads.
Seminole State College in Florida is a prime example of the impacts of going green. The school has just retrofitted its very first LEED Gold certified building, the $14.1 million Building L.
The new space features the best modern ‘smart’ features, including a highly energy efficient air conditioning system that regulates airflow based on the number of people using the space, high performance glass curtaining that allows abundant natural light but avoids solar thermal heat gain, and the use of interior materials that all have a low VOC content so as to reduce the toxicity of the air and improve its overall quality.
In addition, 75 per cent of all waste created on the site is recycled.
The building will continue to serve as a lab for the School of Engineering, Design and Construction, with the school Interior Design Program manager Cheryl Knodel suggesting the building could stand as an example of the higher, modern standard of project desgn and delivery.
“Making renovated spaces green is even more challenging than when you’re building from the ground up,” she said. “This building shows students that it’s possible to renovate a 40-year-old building and incorporate today’s technologies to make it energy efficient and create a healthier environment.”
The benefits of this type of building speak for themselves. It is for this reason that their popularity is booming globally, creating a new standard in education-focused design.