Green Building & Sustainable Development
Florida School Cuts Ribbon on First-of-their-kind Green Classrooms
A school in Lutz, Florida, today officially opened the nation's first modular classrooms to be registered for Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED(R)) for Schools program.
With the opening of nine new environmentally friendly, modular classrooms, Learning Gate Community School, a place where students learn how to incorporate green living into their daily lives, now sets a new standard in education and environmental responsibility.
A Platinum LEED(R) rating is the highest designation given by the USGBC for sustainable building practices. The LEED(R) for Schools program is even more stringent, according to contractors working on the project.
"Virtually every aspect of the buildings is recycled, renewable or organic," said Principal Patti Girard, founder of the environmentally focused charter school. "We used recycled steel frames, lumber approved by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and even soy foam insulation to build the classrooms. We'll even generate a portion of our own electricity by using solar-paneled awnings."
Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation awarded Learning Gate a $250,000 grant for the planning and building of the new green classrooms. In appreciation, Learning Gate honored Lowe's today by naming one of the three new buildings "the Lowe's Building."
"Lowe's is committed to improving the schools that are guiding tomorrow's employees, homeowners and community leaders," said Larry D. Stone, chairman of Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation. "Learning Gate Community School's commitment to sustainability in an educational setting is also preparing its students to be good environmental stewards, and we're proud to support that initiative."
Green technology in the new buildings will ensure maximum efficiency of lighting and temperature control, important in Florida's hot climate. The windows are designed to maximize natural light and photo-sensitive light fixtures gauge the amount of natural light coming into the rooms and self-adjust. Humidity indicators show when it's favorable to open the windows for a natural breeze. The school's six pre-existing buildings will be retrofitted to sustainable standards over time, according to Girard.
"The LEED for Schools program looks at the unique aspects of building schools and includes things like making sure the environment is healthy for students and teachers and uses cost-effective building methods," said Charles Girard, the school's independent general contractor who has been working with a LEED(R) accredited professional on the certification process. "Modular classrooms were used because they are much more affordable than on-site construction."
Principal Girard originally opened Learning Gate Community School
in 2000 with a vision to develop a school dedicated to ecology and the environment. The Platinum designation, when received, will mark the achievement of turning that dream into a reality.
The school puts environmental sustainability at the center of its daily activities and curriculum. The campus features outdoor classroom settings and an award-winning organic garden where the students learn to grow and harvest food used in their daily lunch preparation.
"There's no rule that students have to sit in a classroom to learn," said Principal Girard. "Our students learn math by measuring growth rates of the vegetables in their garden and find inspiration to write essays while overlooking the pond or watching a fox run by. They're as likely to learn about science at our outdoor student-built weather station as inside one of our new green buildings."
While the Hillsborough County public charter school's more than 450 pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students also undertake traditional studies, the campus' 30 acres of woodlands and ponds are living classrooms that also allow them to learn how to live eco-friendly lives.
"Green schools are environmentally responsible and healthy places to learn and work," Girard said. "The families, faculty and Board of Learning Gate Community School have a vision to make our students the future stewards of our environment by showing them tangible, effective ways to integrate green methods into their daily lives and that of the community."
This fall, the school expects to open an organic school kitchen and cafe, along with a program to serve students healthy lunches five days a week and teach them how to grow and prepare healthy and organic foods.
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