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Benefits of high performance schools

High performance design can impact a district from the classroom to the boardroom. The primary benefits include higher test scores, increased average daily attendance, lower operation costs, improved teacher satisfaction and retention, decreased liability, and reduced environmental impacts.

Higher Test Scores

A growing number of studies are confirming the relationship between a school's physical condition, especially its lighting and indoor air quality, and student performance. One recent study of school districts in California, Washington and Colorado indicates a strong correlation between increased daylighting and improved student performance. In the California district, for example, during the course of one year, students with the most daylighting progressed twenty percent faster on math tests and twenty-six percent faster on reading tests than those with the least daylighting. These results echo findings in a similar study conducted in North Carolina schools.

The message confirms what teachers, students, and parents have known anecdotally for years: a better facility—one with great acoustics, lighting, indoor air quality and other high performance features—will deliver better student outcomes.

For more information read the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities report on how school facilities affect academic outcome.

Increased Average Daily Attendance (ADA)

A high performance school provides superior indoor air quality by controlling sources of contaminants, providing adequate ventilation, and preventing moisture accumulation. Pollutants are kept out of the classroom, stale air is eliminated, and mold growth is eliminated—all tactics designed to reduce the sources of health problems and inhibit the spread of airborne infections. The result will be fewer sick days for both students and teachers, especially those with asthma or other respiratory problems. The majority of a school's operating budget is directly dependent on ADA, so even a small increase can significantly boost the operating budget.

Reduced Operation Costs

High performance schools are specifically designed using life cycle cost methods to minimize the long-term costs of ownership. They use less energy and water than standard schools and are easier to maintain. As a consequence, overall operating costs are low and remain so for the life of the facility. Savings can be used to supplement other budgets, such as special education, computers, books, and salaries

Increased Teacher Satisfaction and Retention

High performance classrooms are designed to be pleasant and effective places to work. Visual and thermal comfort are high, acoustics are good, and the indoor air is fresh and clean. Such environments act as positive factors in recruiting and retaining teachers and in improving their overall satisfaction with their positions.

Reduced Liability

Because they are healthy and emphasize superior indoor environmental quality, high performance school buildings reduce a district's exposure to health-related lawsuits.

Reduced Environmental Impacts

High performance school buildings are consciously designed to respond to and positively impact the environment. They are energy and water efficient. They use durable, nontoxic materials that are high in recycled content and are themselves easily recycled. They preserve pristine natural areas on their sites and restore damaged ones. And they use nonpolluting, renewable energy to the greatest extent possible. As a consequence, high performance school buildings are good environmental citizens and they are designed to stay that way throughout their entire life cycles.

These benefits arise only when districts establish high performance as a specific goal from the very beginning, and fight for it, hard, over the course of the development process. A focus on student and teacher outcomes, coupled with a concern for the environment and a commitment to cost-effectiveness, will help ensure that the effort is successful and that any school—no matter what its budget—achieves the highest performance level possible for its particular circumstances.

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