All school facilities combine systems to make a complete building, but not all buildings are high performance. None of the elements used to make the high performance school a better learning environment are rocket science. High performance schools design is a health and comfort issue, and all the features are common, simple elements that are integrated as a "whole building," and not as separate entities.
The High Performance School Buildings Resource and Strategy Guide lists the following as the key features or Building Blocks of a high performance school. Detailed information on why these elements are important, how it can be incorporated into a new school building, how it impacts other building components, and specific resources on each of the elements are presented in the Guide.
Acoustic Comfort - Students and teachers can hear one another without shouting. Noise from inside and outside the classroom is minimized.
Commissioning - The school operates as it was designed to do to meet the needs of the owner. This is made possible by implementing a formal commissioning process - a kind of "systems check" for the facility.
Daylighting - As much natural daylight as cost - effectively possible is provided, particularly in classrooms where it can do the most good. Daylighting systems are designed to avoid excess heat loss or gain and minimize glare.
Energy Analysis Tools - The facility is designed to reduce short- and long-term energy costs as much as possible while maintaining a high quality learning environment.
Energy Efficiency Building Shell - The walls, floors, roofs and windows of the school are as energy efficient as economically practicable. The building shell integrates and optimizes insulation levels, glazing, shading, thermal mass, air leakage and light-colored exterior surfaces.
Environmentally Preferable Materials and Products - To the extent possible, the school incorporates materials and products that are durable, non-toxic, derived from sustainable-yield processes, high in recycled content and can be easily recycled.
Environmentally Responsive Site Planning - To the extent possible, the school's site conserves existing natural areas and restores damaged ones, minimizes storm water runoff and controls erosion, and enhances the building's high performance features.
High Performance HVAC - The school's heating/ventilating/air conditioning (HVAC) system uses high efficiency equipment that is "right sized" for the estimated demands of the facility and includes controls that boost system performance.
High Performance Lighting - Students and teachers work in a high quality visual environment that stimulates learning while saving energy. The school's lighting system uses high efficiency lamps and ballasts, optimizes the number of light fixtures in each room, incorporates controls that ensure peak system performance and successfully integrates electric lighting and daylighting strategies.
Indoor Air Quality - Students and teachers suffer no ill effects from the air inside the school. Sources of contamination are controlled, adequate ventilation is provided and moisture accumulation is prevented.
Life Cycle Cost Analysis - The school is optimized with a view towards its total costs of ownership over time. Initial, operating and maintenance/repair replacement costs are compared for numerous design alternatives using life cycle cost analysis tools.
Renewable Energy - The school maximizes the cost-effective use of renewable systems to meet its energy needs. During the design process, the following systems are systematically evaluated and considered: passive solar design for heating and cooling, solar hot water, active solar (for space heating), geothermal heat pumps, natural ventilation, wind-generated electricity, photovoltaics and green power.
Safety and Security - Students and teachers feel safe anywhere in the building or on the grounds. A secure environment is created primarily by design: opportunities for natural surveillance are optimized, a sense of territoriality is reinforced, and access is controlled. Security technology is used to enhance, rather than substitute for, the design features.
Thermal Comfort - Occupants are comfortable at all times. Temperature and humidity remain in the "comfort zone." Hot, stuffy rooms and cold, drafty ones are eliminated. Teachers have control over thermal conditions in individual classrooms.
Visual Comfort - A rich visual environment is provided. The lighting for each room is "designed," not simply specified. Daylight and electric light are integrated and optimized. Glare is eliminated.Water Efficiency - The school uses as little off-site water as possible to meet its needs. The school controls and reduces water run-off from its site, consumes fresh water as efficiently as possible, and recovers and reuses graywater to the extent possible.