Greenhill School announced that it has been awarded LEED® Certification for its operations and maintenance of the Phillip G. Foote Lower School. The LEED rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is the foremost program for buildings, homes and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environment and human health performance.
Greenhill is among the first schools in the entire Southwest to achieve LEED Certification under the Existing Buildings rating system. The Existing Buildings promotes building operational practices that promote environmental sustainability and is designed to help with the establishment of ongoing facilities management process improvements. Greenhill achieved LEED Certified status by implementing practical and measurable strategies and solutions aimed at achieving high performance in: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
“One of the benefits of going through the process to become LEED certified is that we were able to improve operations across our campus,” said Head of School Scott Griggs. “Frequently, when we identified an area of improvement for the Lower School, it was something that we could implement in other buildings as well, compounding the financial impact of the project.”
LEED is the foremost program for design, construction and operation of green buildings. Over 44,000 projects are currently participating in the commercial and institutional LEED rating systems, comprising over 8 billion square feet of construction space in all 50 states and 120 countries.
“Buildings are a prime example of how human systems integrate with natural systems,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO and Founding Chair, USGBC. “The Phillip G. Foote Lower School project at Greenhill School efficiently uses our natural resources and makes an immediate, positive impact on our planet, which will tremendously benefit future generations to come.” Greenhill, working closely with Building Solutions, a sustainability consultant, quantified the value of each individual initiative identified to obtain LEED Certification and found that in total, the School realized a 20% return on investment (ROI).
One of the most significant drivers of ROI was a reduction in energy use. Several measures contributed to the cost savings, including improved preventive maintenance, careful scheduling of the use of air conditioning, monitoring operable windows, and installing carbon dioxide sensors in each classroom. The sensors linked to dampers on air ducts for the heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. As more people enter a room, the amount of carbon dioxide increases, triggering the HVAC system to run. As people leave the room carbon dioxide levels drop, and the system stops. By only conditioning occupied rooms, the building experienced a significant decrease in energy usage. Other initiatives that qualified for LEED credits were more difficult to quantify financially, but they promoted a superior learning environment, making implementation worthwhile. For example, the school facilities team established an indoor air quality (IAQ) monitoring process for one credit. Indoor air low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) has been shown to provide positive health benefits in corporate settings and in educational environments, along with reduced absenteeism and greater employee satisfaction. Bruce Thompson, Director of Facility Operations and Services for Greenhill, and his team established baseline IAQ readings for all classrooms, then on a regular basis, they check readings and make adjustments to maintain excellent IAQ.
The LEED initiative with the most wide-reaching impact on the Greenhill campus was the update to the School’s waste management program. While recycling programs had been in place for years, a waste audit revealed that only 15% of the waste on campus made it into a recycle bin. As a result of the audit, Greenhill worked closely with their waste management vendor, Republic Services, to make changes to their program, adding a larger trash compactor on campus, and implementing a single waste stream program for all recyclables. They also added a process to recycle fluorescent lamps, and found a new vendor to recycle e-waste, like batteries and small electronics. The School also worked with their landscape vendor to start composting landscape waste on campus. Those changes, combined with a campus public relations program to “Keep Greenhill Green,” lead to an increase in recycling overall, so that nearly 50% of all waste on campus is recycled in some way.
“One of the benefits of the LEED Certification process was that it drove greater partnership with our vendors for outsourced services,” said Chief Financial Officer Melissa Orth. “By working closely together, we could identify ways that we could all improve.”
Other initiatives included:
- Evaluating all chemicals used in and around the building, from pest control substances to cleaning products to ensure that they were environmentally friendly
- Adopting custodial practices and cleaning devices that protect the health of building users and avoid polluting the environment
- Attaching aerators to all faucets to reduce water usage
- Tracking energy consumption with an energy stewardship program that helps distinguish between weather-related energy usage and other factors that impact energy usage (like open windows.)
- Reducing the use of gas-driven landscape equipment, to avoid fumes, noise, and energy usage.
“For many of the credits, the school documented consistent performance and compliance with LEED standards for at least a year,” said Bill Keslar, President of Building Solutions and Project Administrator. “This program prompted permanent transformation of Greenhill’s facility operations to be an outstanding example among its peers throughout the United States.”
“I am incredibly proud that we have achieved LEED Certification,” said Griggs. “Reaching this milestone required the effort of nearly everyone on campus. It was a true community effort and it will have an impact for years to come.”