School boards going green

  • October 24, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - Catholic school boards in Ontario and Alberta are going green.

At least 10 environmentally friendly schools are being planned within the next two years to accommodate new students, although concerns about declining enrolment are still on the horizon.
Two $8.9-million, LEED-certified schools, also known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, will be ready within the next couple years for about 1,000 students in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, according to board chairperson Pat Daly.

LEED certification is a market-based rating which certifies the environmental performance of buildings and communities. Buildings are assessed based upon five categories: water efficiency, sustainable sites, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality. There are four possible levels of certification: certified, silver, gold and platinum. Buildings are certified by the Canada Green Building Council after company audits and an independent review.

Daly said the idea of building environmentally friendly schools stems from “an environmental commitment of being good stewards.”

In Edmonton, four LEED-standard Catholic schools will be built within the next two years for about 2,000 students. The new schools will be 40 per cent more energy efficient than previous schools, said Lori Nagy, media spokesperson for the Edmonton Catholic District Schools.

Some features will include energy-efficient lighting systems, energy-saving washroom fixtures, improved building construction to minimize heat loss and mechanical systems designed to minimize electrical use, Nagy said. She added that the schools would also use recyclable building materials and renewable construction materials and will be located near public transportation.

But even with the promise of long-term environmental and economic benefits touted by advocates of greener buildings, school boards also have to face current budget realities. Some school boards are building new schools which have qualifications for LEED certification but won’t be LEED certified.

Virginia Barton, senior co-ordinator of capital services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board, said one of the three new schools planned for construction will be LEED certified.

Certification can cost from $150,000 to $400,000, she said.

The Toronto Catholic board doesn’t have a policy to have this certification for its new buildings, Barton said.

“We’re trying to be responsible citizens, but we have a funding limit,” she said.

The Durham Catholic District School Board is set to open a more than $9-million school next September that isn’t LEED certified but has LEED certification attributes.

Although there will likely be more green schools planned, the board faces declining enrolment challenges, according to Tim Robins, assistant superintendent of facilities services at the Durham Catholic board.

St. Bernadette’s Catholic Elementary School in Ajax, Ont., is being built for 635 students. Robins said the school will have large windows that will allow for natural light to enter into the building as well as energy-efficient lighting systems, heating and control systems.

The York Catholic District School Board is also planning to open two new schools for 1,100 students next fall at a combined cost of $57 million. Although they will not be LEED certified, they will meet LEED silver standards. The schools will have features such as energy-efficient windows, light pollution reduction and low-flow water faucets, said Gillian Lavery, a spokesperson for the York Catholic board.

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