High-Performance Schools 2.0

August 29, 2013

Safe, sustainable learning environments for all.

by Mark Bishop

Our work at Healthy Schools Campaign is rooted in the common sense notion that healthy students are better learners, and a healthy school environment will help students achieve more in school. When creating a healthy school environment, it is important to look at the environment in which students learn, from indoor air quality to the design of the building itself.

The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) works to create learning environments that are safe, sustainable and comfortable for students. They have established criteria for building green schools that are currently used in 13 states.  Right now, CHPS is in the middle of revising their core criteria.

We find this core criteria to be very thorough and well-done: the main sections include information on school siting, energy use, water use and indoor air quality. All sections are important and can directly impact the health of the occupants, the environmental footprint of the facility and long-term savings for the schools.

But, what I find interesting is that CHPS brings in elements that go beyond facility management and into policy and building use. Particularly interesting sections include one on including a school garden, having an anti-idling policy and investing in occupant training about how people and the built environment impact one another. Overall, this is a fantastic program and I encourage you to learn more about their work at the CHPS website.

HSC was asked to comment on the revisions to CHPS’ updated criteria. In response to this request, HSC submitted comments to CHPS focusing on two main areas: Green Cleaning and Low Radon. In summary:

Green Cleaning: HSC believes that green cleaning is an important of proper maintenance for a healthy school. However, we also believe that by limiting the certifications used, that you are limiting the options schools have to clean with. Ideally, we believe CHPS should at minimum include the US EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program as an allowable third-party certification.

Low Radon: In short, if we want to cost effectively address radon in our schools, we need to build our schools with radon-resistant new construction (RRNC) techniques.  Retrofitting after the fact is expensive and burdensome to schools. Any school district built in a zone 1 or 2 radon area should include RRNC into their design plans rather than requiring testing after the schools are built.

We are looking forward to seeing the final draft of the CHPS Core Criteria. If you want to make comments, they are open through tomorrow, August 30th. We encourage you to visit the website and find out more about the work of CHPS and what you can do to ensure your school is a high-performance school.