Greening America’s Schools

Hill View Montessori School

Hill View Montessori School

We often say that the “G” in Studio G stands for green. For 20 years, sustainable design principles have been central to our work.  Maximizing daylight and ventilation, creating high-performance building envelopes, reducing building energy loads and providing high efficiency systems are basic tenets of our practice. We strive to integrate these principles into our work from the very initial stages, creating designs that are innovative, cost effective and fundamentally sustainable.

As our portfolio grows to include an increasing number of schools and educational spaces, these principles become especially important. We believe children deserve to learn in healthy and inspiring environments that encourage collaboration, are full of fresh air and daylight, and preserve surrounding natural habitats. Schools should be energy efficient to help reduce waste and conserve resources, resulting in lower utility and operational costs. When designed correctly, green buildings and systems can also serve as valuable, hands-on learning tools that teach children to act as responsible stewards of their communities and the environment.


Flexible classroom @ Sturgis Charter Public School

To learn more about green schools, check out the link below for a great document entitled Local Leaders in Sustainability: A National Action Plan for Greening America’s Schools. Produced by the American Institute of Architects, ICLEI USA – Local Governments for Sustainability, the Redford Center, and the U.S. Green Building Council, the Action Plan echoes many of our sentiments about the importance of sustainable design, backed by compelling data and case studies.

Here are a few highlights and interesting facts from the Action Plan:

  • Energy efficient schools can save approximately $100,000/yr in operating costs – money that could be spent on teachers, education materials, books or computers.
  • A fifth of US schools, roughly 25,000 school buildings, require $112 billion in extensive repairs and renovations just to bring them up to minimum building standards.
  • More than 15,000 schools have air that was deemed unsafe to breathe. By improving indoor air quality through the exclusion of toxic materials and improved ventilation, green schools can improve the health of students, faculty and staff and can result in decreased absenteeism. Doctors have found that 65% of asthma cases among grade school students could be prevented through design strategies to improve indoor air.
  • A meta-analysis examining 53 studies showed a strong correlation between daylighting and student achievement.
  • Green schools use 33% less energy and 32% less water than conventionally constructed schools, significantly reducing utility costs over the average 42-year lifecycle of a school.
  • Green schools help improve teacher retention. Studies show teachers in green schools report they are more satisfied with their school environments than teachers in conventional schools, citing indoor air quality, access to daylight and outside views and better acoustics as reasons they prefer these high-performing schools.
  • A 2007 report, The Cost of Green Revisited, looked into 100 buildings achieving LEED certification. When compared to a random sample of traditionally designed buildings and controlling for time, location and cost, the study found no significant difference in average costs for green buildings as compared to non-green buildings.
  • Buildings are one of the heaviest consumers of natural resources, consuming more than 70% of electricity and contributing to nearly 40% of CO2 emissions in the United States. As a rough estimate, a green school could reduce annual emissions of carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas) by 585,000 pounds.

To download the full report, click here:

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