Did you know that in 2006, Energy Star reported that K-12 schools in the US spend more than $7.5 billion annually on energy? Energy costs are the largest operating expense for K-12 school districts after salaries and benefits. The good news is that taking measures to improve decrease energy usage can not only be done without negatively affecting classroom instruction, but it may even lead to a more ideal learning environment for students, as well as extensive cost savings.
There are several aspects of building performance that prove to be crucial in providing an environment conducive to learning. “Research has shown that a relationship between facility conditions and absenteeism, teacher turnover rates, and occupant health,” Energy Star reports. Fortunately, many aspects of an energy conservation program can improve the following factors, while cutting energy costs.
- Student safety and security can be improved with proper exterior lighting and adequate lighting in hallways and stairwells.
- It is also important to keep in mind that natural daylight has been shown to enhance learning and so should be utilized wherever possible without negatively affecting other important aspects of lighting design. Visual comfort depends on having an adequate amount of evenly distributed illumination. “Daylighting in Schools: Reanalysis Report,” a major study conducted in 2003 by the Heschong Mahone Group, found that on average daylighting improves learning by 21 percent.
- Indoor air quality can be bettered with ventilation as well as by removing the source of pollutants. High concentrations of these pollutants, like carbon dioxide (CO2), have been correlated with sickness and poor academic test performance.
- The temperature of educational facilities also has an impact on student performance. Cold temperatures reduce dexterity, whereas warm temperatures reduce alertness. Temperatures that fluctuate frequently and widely can hinder children’s ability to focus.
- Noise from outside the building, interior hallways, and building systems (such as fans, boilers, and compressors) can be a significant distraction to students. Being able to hear properly is important because up to 60 percent of classroom activities involve spoken communication.
For more information, visit www.energystar.gov.