On September 29, 2012, the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council will host the first annual Green Apple Day of Service. For one day, advocates from around the world will come together in support of healthy, sustainable schools by taking action in their community. When you look at our educational spaces, you see outdated buildings in need of repairs, burdened with unsafe toxins, dwindling budgets and outdated resources – in place of opportunity and progress. The Center for Green Schools was established to drive the transformation of all learning environments into safe, engaging, and comfortable facilities that enhance kid’s ability to learn and teacher’s ability to teach.
To register your school or to find a participating school near you, got to MyGreenApple.org. Stay tuned to see how Shaw Contract Group will lend a hand in support of schools.
The summer is over and school is back in full force. Whether it be elementary school or college, carpet has benefits for both staff and students alike. For teachers on their feet all day, carpet combats leg fatigue and can lead to better posture. A good studying environment is key for students. One study by the American Society of Interior Designers revealed that carpet absorbs sound 10 times more efficiently than other flooring options—improving acoustics and concentration. Additionally, carpet creates solutions that reduce VOCs, improve indoor air quality, inhibit microorganism growth and lessen the frequency and severity of slips and falls.
To learn more about carpet in education facilities, check out our website. Take a look at some schools around the world that feature Shaw Contract Group carpet:
Hogeschool INHolland Rotterdam
We have already discussed how design plays into the restaurants we choose to eat at, but what about food facilities or cafeterias at the places we work, learn, or heal? Unhealthy eating has become an epidemic in America with 34 percent of adults over the age of 20 diagnosed as obese and diabetes affecting nearly 26 million. How can these facilities be re-imagined to better serve and engage its users?
As design leaders from Perkins+Will point out in their Designing for Health web series, design can play a critical role in helping people make better food choices. A 2005 survey by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that fewer than one-third of hospitals offered a salad bar or low-fat entrée option; even worse, 62 percent of the “healthiest entrées” derived more than 30 percent of calories from fat. Healthcare facilities must emphasize the connection between nutrition and wellness and, moreover, make the food appealing using attractive and eye-catching displays.
Research has shown that if the first thing people see in a cafeteria is a salad bar, then they are more likely to stop there. Also, East Coast retailer Wegman’s, has promoted health by putting produce front and center and using direct lighting and colorful descriptions to highlight healthy foods along with Wellness Keys, a branded labeling system that points out specific nutritional attributes.
Do you think spaces can be successfully designed to help us eat healthier?
Fresh Del Monte Produce introduced a vending machine that dispenses carrots, bananas, and other produce. Sporting engaging graphics and the punchy tagline “Taste. Feel. Live. Better!”, h.u.m.a.n. Healthy Vending machines feature healthful snacks and drinks. The company also has a broader goal—donating 10 percent of proceeds to charitable causes that fight obesity and malnutrition. Distinctive branding on the machines and on the company’s Web site makes the corporate goal clear: “help unite man and nutrition by making health foods, drinks, and information universally acceptable.
A recent survey conducted by University of Colorado Denver’s Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences shows a positive correlation between student achievement in science and sustainable, high-performance school practices. The data was collected from a nationwide study of 100 schools in 28 states that have each implemented “green” school practices, including environmental literacy and sustainability curriculum. Student achievement data was gathered from recent assessment scores in science from state department of education websites as well as the survey.
Schools that took part in the survey observe GreenPrint core practices as defined by the Green Schools National Network (GSNN). The core practices are:
- Curriculum that advances environmental literacy and sustainability
- Stewardship and service learning
- Sustainable facilities design and management
- Health and well being
- Strong partnerships and networks
To find more information about the importance of sustainable schools in the United States, Bryan Shao-Chang Wee, PhD, assistant professor of environmental science education, and his team of researchers would like to do further research by refining the survey and obtaining a larger sample. The researchers would also like to visit “green” schools to collect more data and determine whether the GreenPrint core practices have any relationship to subjects such as reading, writing, social studies and math.
Arizona State University Polytechnic Academic Complex in Mesa, AZ is LEED-certified and features Shaw Contract Group's Parody tile carpet
As pedagogy (or teaching method) becomes more innovative, school administrators are realizing the important part the built environment plays on student learning. A recent article in Architectural Record highlights designs that embrace the challenge of providing spaces that enhance, rather than impede, the education process. Here’s a recap of some of the design trends in 21st Century schools:
John A. Dubanski Career High School - Grand Prairie, Texas
Safe, welcoming environment for learning
Flexible spaces that can be adapted for changing pedagogical concepts, supporting guiding principles over current curriculum
Implementation of the concept that learning doesn’t have to happen at a desk or in a chair
Clusters by function that serve multiple needs, such as shared facilities for sports, music, and art
More transparency and stronger connectivity between space
Avoidance of dark corners and staircases, to deter bullying
Making the school a part of the community by designing facilities that can also be used for community activities
Translation of the school district’s principles into the design, providing architecture that both reflects and shapes a school’s culture
Image: Architectural Record