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Schools of the 21st Century
Symposium consensus: Building green not necessarily in opposition to cost

Notes from Sam Barnes, special correspondent for Architectural Record & senior editor for the magazine’s sister publication, South Central Construction.


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Ron Bogle, president and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based American Architectural Foundation.

More than 300 architects, school administrators and facility managers convened at the New Orleans Marriott at the Convention Center to discuss trends in the design and construction of high performance schools.

Steve Beade, seated far left, with Lutron Electronics Co. Inc., discusses the role of lighting in the high-performance school during a panel discussion.

A product show was held in conjunction with the symposium.

Panelists discuss the applications of new materials and technologies in current and future school designs.
All photos © Sam Barnes

Ronald Bogle says the future of school construction is more than just dollars and cents. Booming enrollments and decaying buildings have school administrators looking for economical ways to build, but he says there’s more to it than that. “I think we design schools that support our objectives to educate children, to help strengthen neighborhoods, to be more than just a shelter but something that can transform the experience of students, teachers, and others,” Bogle says. And he says that is often more cost-effective in the long-term.

Bogle, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based American Architectural Foundation, addressed an audience of more than 200 educators and architects March 1 at the Schools of the 21st Century Symposium in New Orleans. The symposium was presented by McGraw-Hill Construction and Architectural Record magazine in partnership with the American Architectural Foundation and Edutopia. “Many superintendents talk about the need to create new schools that are viewed by their constituents as being economical and on schedule,” he adds. “But we argue that design is also an important tool in helping support the learning objectives of the school.”

The symposium, held at the New Orleans Marriott at the Convention Center, was a “live version” of Architectural Record’s Schools of the 21st Century publication and Web site, says Laura Viscusi, publisher of Architectural Record and Schools of the 21st Century. The event offered a chance for attendees to examine the latest school design trends, and was co-located at the American Association of School Administrators conference at the New Orleans Convention Center. “This is our first symposium and allowed us the opportunity to physically bring the designers, the school administrators and facility planners together to discuss the future of school construction,” Viscusi says.

High-performance schools and green building were common themes during the symposium. Deane M. Evans, executive director of the Center for Architecture &  Building Science Research at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, told the group that energy-saving, sustainable designs can serve the dual purposes of improving education and saving costs. “The school building and classrooms are not simply settings in which education occurs,” Evans says. “They are active variables in the education process. We can design them and can build them better to optimize that variable in the education process, as opposed to just leaving it to chance or letting the teacher work it out. It’s true, a good teacher could teach in a barn, but I think a good teacher could teach better in a high-performance facility.” Evans says designing a high performance school is not nearly as costly as some school administrators and facility planners believe. “There are a number of issues that make a healthy and productive school,” he adds. “High performance schools have high levels of acoustics and thermal visual comfort, lots of indoor daylight, really good indoor air quality, they’re safe and secure. And they’re cost effective.” The cost effectiveness is likely to be the most attractive component to school administrators, in light of recent enrollment projections. “About 8 million more students are expected between now and 2015,” Evans says. “That comes to about 4,000 new large schools needed or about 20,000 smaller schools nationwide.”

Michele A. Russo, director of industry communications for McGraw-Hill Construction Analytics, told the group that school construction currently comprises the largest percentage of non-residential construction market. She also sees the greatest potential for high-performance and green building in the education market. “The fastest growing sector for green construction is in education,” Russo says. “This is significant because this research polled architects, researchers and owners, and the consensus was that education had the greatest potential. “The surprising part of this is that government came in second, and they’ve been driving green building from the start.”

Also during the symposium, separate panel discussions focused on advances in building systems and new materials and technologies being used in schools. Panelists discussed how their products could improve the educational process through design components such as acoustics, HVAC systems, classroom lighting and other innovations, while at the same time creating long-term cost savings for school administrators.