How Green School Buildings Help Children Grow 

By Katie Hyslop for the When the provincial government decided all new school buildings must meet the LEED Gold standard in 2008, the motive was making B.C. the province with the first carbon-neutral government in Canada, with the added benefit of saving school districts some energy costs.

But new avenues of research into the effects of school buildings on human health and productivity are producing evidence that the government’s move towards greener schools could be producing healthier, more productive and more environmentally aware students.

A tale of a green Dickens

The new Charles Dickens Elementary School was the first in the Vancouver School District when it opened in May 2008, however the government wasn’t enforcing LEED Gold certification then, so the district had to use their own funds to reach LEED Silver status.

Some of the green features include an underground rainwater cistern for non-potable water, geothermal rods that mine the earth’s heat to warm and cool the building, and electronic sensors that monitor the number of people in the room to determine how much light and heat is required.

But while the custodial staff estimates significant energy savings in comparison to the old buildings — as much as 50 per cent less gas than previously required — there is little more than anecdotal evidence the building is producing healthier, more productive students and teachers.

“I think the air quality is definitely different, I noticed that right away from all the buildings that I’ve worked in,” says principal Kathy O’Sullivan.

“And we do have some sickness, colds and the occasional flu, which is during certain seasons, but I don’t see a high absenteeism due to illness, so I think that’s a positive thing. I do see less dust and dirt.”

Researchers in Canada and the U.S. want to turn anecdotes into hard facts by monitoring the affects of natural light, air quality, and acoustics on children’s ability to learn, and as a result are discovering many requirements of sustainable structures are meeting the educational and health needs of children far better than traditional buildings can. Read more

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