As of 2010, according to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are almost 99,000 public K-12 schools in America. In 1999 (the most recent data available), the average public school building in the U.S. was 42 years old. We build our public building, particularly schools, to last a long time. Building to only meet the current code (the absolute worst possible building you can build by law) is a short-sighted approach to the health of our community. Our building codes are updated and most often strengthened every three years in the Commonwealth of Virginia. So why not try to build a building that will perform better than code over the next 50 years.
A Zero-Energy building was once a very expensive proposition that was only achieved by very few specifically using alternative energy. Now with the costs of traditional energy sources going up, alternative energy technology reducing, and building science understanding becoming mainstream, zero-energy buildings are very achievable. This approach to school construction acknowledges the need for a holistic long-term building solution that sets an example for the children attending the school. A Zero Energy Building solution shows the community that our leaders care about future costs to run a facility, tax burdens imposed on community members, and the health of our environment. More important, it shows that our community cares deeply for our children and their future.
The benefits of a Zero-energy school are many including:
1. Reduced energy costs
2. Material efficiency (comes from understanding building science and efficient thermal envelope)
3. Increased economic benefits (alternative energy, building science, and service jobs)
4. Thermal Comfort (better thermal envelope reduced energy required and increases comfort inside)
5. Indoor Environmental Quality (natural light goes hand in hand with this approach to design)
6. Indoor Air Quality (better building construction provides better air quality)
7. Increased attendance (many studies have shown a better indoor environment resulting from high performance construction improves the health of those using the building)
8. Improved Student Performance (better attendance, better indoor environment, better performance)
9. Leadership (demonstrated leadership in the community through building better)
10. Enhanced Educational Opportunities (high performance solutions provides many opportunities to teach the next generation)