August 19, 2011
Stevenson High School has become the first public high school in the country to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® gold-level certification for existing buildings from the U.S. Green Building Council.
LEED is a certification program that is the national benchmark for design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. Stevenson received gold certification by earning enough points in the LEED rating system that measures several areas, including water and energy use and conservation; indoor air quality; management of waste and recyclable materials; the use of environmentally preferred products and practices for cleaning and alterations; and sustainable purchasing policies. Gold certification is the second-highest level in the four-tiered LEED ratings system.
"The school's vision statement that guided the decisions leading to Stevenson's academic recognition also has guided sustainability efforts for more than 20 years," said District 125 Board of Education member Merv Roberts. "Facility planning and maintenance operations used the vision statement to help reduce energy usage and costs, and to reduce the school's impact on the environment. Some of the vision phrases used were ‘continuous improvement,’ ‘safe and secure environment conducive to learning,’ ‘best practices collaboration’ and ‘financial stewardship.’ Over the years, as the school expanded and facilities were updated, energy usage and environmental factors were considered in those decisions. As a result, Stevenson was well-positioned to enter the LEED process. At this point, the school’s annual savings approximate $100,000 per year and the cost of the LEED process has been fully recovered."
Stevenson made a number of changes in its day-to-day operations — including cutting back on electricity and natural gas use during non-school hours, increasing recycling and using less paper — during the 22-month certification process. Those changes have remained a daily part of life at the school.
"This is a remarkable accomplishment because we have a school with a footprint of nearly 1 million square feet, and we have more than 4,500 people here on a daily basis," said Assistant Superintendent for Business Mark Michelini, who coordinated the certification effort. "Earning LEED gold status is a validation of our ‘green initiative’ to reduce the school’s carbon footprint."
Stevenson’s green initiative, launched in 2007, is led by a 40-member committee including students, teachers, administrators, facilities staff, and community and school board members. Their recommendations have resulted in the school making the following improvements:
- Increased recycling – The percentage of waste recycled at Stevenson increased from 32% in 2008-09, to 42% in 2009-10, and to 49% in the first three months of the 2010-11 school year (when the LEED certification application was submitted). In terms of raw numbers, 25 tons of waste was diverted from landfills to recycling centers in 2009-10.
- Smarter energy use – Adjustments to lighting, heating and air conditioning during non-school hours led to a 6.9% reduction in electricity use between 2008-09 and 2009-10. Natural gas consumption dropped by 4.8% during the same time period. The reductions in those two areas during one year equaled 1,351 barrels of oil.
- Reduced use of paper – An emphasis on electronic communications rather than printed material resulted in a 5.3% decline in paper used at the school’s copying center over a three-year period: From 14.7 million sheets of paper used in the 2007-08 school year to 13.9 million sheets in 2009-10.
"One of the important facets of our green initiative is to set goals and provide evidence that we are achieving them, which mirrors our approach to measuring the effectiveness of our curriculum and teaching," said District 125 Superintendent Dr. Eric Twadell.
The green initiative also is becoming a part of everyday life for Stevenson students. Energy efficiency and sustainability is addressed in many curriculum areas, particularly science. Students also played a major role in the LEED certification process. About 20 students conducted transportation surveys of peers, faculty and staff, and found a significant reduction in conventional commuting trips. Students also gathered data on water flow rates and rainwater infiltration.
"It's amazing that our school has the resources and initiative to support many aspects of being environmentally friendly," said Nadia Khan, a junior at Stevenson. "We're lucky that the staff and students at Stevenson could cooperate to recycle, use technology to find alternate sources of heat and to reduce paper usage, and to finally get LEED-gold certified."
About the U.S. Green Building Council
The U.S. Green Building Council is a nonprofit membership organization whose vision is a sustainable built environment within a generation. Its membership includes corporations, builders, universities, government agencies, and other nonprofit organizations. For more information, visit www.usgbc.org
The LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™ is a feature-oriented rating system that awards buildings points for satisfying specified green building criteria. Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels of LEED green building certification are awarded based on the total number of points earned within each LEED category. For more information, visit http://www.usgbc.org/LEED