Similar to LEED and GreenPoint Rated, the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) rating program helps address the growing demand for energy efficiency through innovative design, construction, and operation of schools. An excellent way to showcase this leadership in sustainable schools is through the CHPS criteria II7.1 – Demonstration Area. The intent of this criteria is to highlight three of the five major performance categories – Indoor Environmental Quality; Energy, Water, Site, and Materials; and Waste Management – in a way that explains how a high performance feature of the building works, its environmental and economic benefits, and how it exemplifies a holistic approach to sustainable design.
Demonstration areas can provide an excellent platform for students, teachers, and staff to learn about sustainability and efficient design in a comprehensive and interactive way. Designs may be electronic and interactive, but they must be physically present at the school site and dedicated for this function. An example of the use of technology in an educational demonstration relating to the Energy performance category is the “energy orb” monitoring system at Oberlin College, in Ohio. These orbs make basic electricity usage information visible to students by translating a building or floor’s current level of consumption relative to the baseline into a spectrum of colors. The hues displayed by the orbs turn red if consumption is double or more of its normal electricity use, yellow if consumption is regular, and green if it is half of the typical rate. This sort of interactive display can be an effective tool to educate students on energy use while increasing interest and motivation to conserve energy.
Schools and design teams also have the option of focusing on the Water performance category. Bioswale exhibits can demonstrate the water management process occurring in the campus’ landscaped areas. Plexiglass containers layered with a soil horizontal to the one installed can mimic the project site and show the importance of features such as a boulder bed or filter fabric. Native plants on the surface can demonstrate their role as a habitat-provider as well as a natural filter for larger objects. A drain can then lead to a pump which recirculates water, and this allows for an opportunity to explain atmospheric processes as well. These displays are relatively cost efficient and can be fixed or mobile for an enhanced learning experience.
An option for exhibiting the importance of efficient building materials could be an outdoor, rotating window display. Two enclosed pods containing thermostats show the difference in heat gain between code compliant and non-compliant window assemblies. In addition, these pods could have the ability to rotate, demonstrating the effect of orientation in heat-gain and energy-use, and providing an effective learning tool for educators.
VCA Green offers consultation for CHPS, LEED, CALGreen, and other related sustainability services. If you have a school development project seeking CHPS certification or other similar project goals, contact us here for further information or guidance:
Contributing Writer: Luca Costa, LEED Green Associate