Building Products. The design and construction of schools in America is rarely support sustainable or efficient. New synthetic building materials and furnishings have contributed to an increase in toxic chemicals in indoor environments, where we spend most of our time. In addition, the products used in school construction and furnishing require a lot of energy and resources, which contributes to global warming.
Planning new school and building renovations should incorporate sustainability and green building to create healthier campuses and protect the environment. Here are some products that can help get your school off to a healthy start:
Nontoxic Products. Use non-VOC paints, finishes, adhesives and sealants. Opt for ones that are made from natural ingredients. Schools should know exactly what they're getting when purchasing structural materials and furnishings; ask the manufacturer first what materials the product is made from, what sort of paint or varnish was used and where their product is manufactured. Many major paint companies, such as Olympic and Benjamin Moore, carry environmentally friendly paints.
Reclaimed or Recycled Items. Structural materials and furnishings made of recycled materials can be found throughout the country. Look for post-consumer recycled content before settling for post-industrial. Finding pre-used equipment or products for a school project is another great alternative to new items. Just be sure to check with the previous owner, when possible about the type of paint used on the equipment, making sure there is no chance for lead exposure.
FSC-Certified Wood. Use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood for structures and furnishings. The FSC ensures that each product is made while maintaining the health of our forests, its inhabitants and our planet.
Non-Hazardous Insulation. Use natural or nontoxic insulation. Cellulose insulation made from recycled newspapers and other post-industrial/consumer waste and cotton insulation most commonly made from post-industrial/consumer jean waste are excellent alternatives to conventional fiberglass insulation. They are becoming more popular and accessible. Companies such as Ecowise supply organic-based insulation.
Building Sealants. Installing double-pane windows and sealing all openings in the building saves energy.
Fly-ash Concrete. Utilize a wasteful byproduct of the coal industry by incorporating fly-ash into the concrete foundation. Fly ash is created during the burning of coal for energy production. As opposed to bottom ash, fly ash can be collected in the top of chimneys or smoke escapes and reused as a supplement to cements.
Other Green Building Techniques Commonly Used:
- Utilize Passive Solar Design: Orient the structure to the south, use appropriate glazing, insulate effectively, use overhangs and solar heating masses, employ proper colors on roof and facades with greatest sun exposure, minimize cement on property and use vegetation instead.
- Green Roof: If possible, incorporate a green roof into the design of new structures to minimize the heat island effect while preventing run-off. Green roofs are partially or completely covered with vegetation. To learn more visit Greenroofs.