Paving the Way for Sustainable Education Design

Paving the Way for Sustainable Education Design

The 2016 Best of Green Schools Awards, presented at the Green Schools Conference and Expo earlier this month, recognizes the people, schools, campuses and organizations that create healthy, sustainable and efficient learning environments and inspiring educational experiences. Pauline Souza is a partner and director of sustainability at WRNS Studio, a LEED Fellow, and this year’s honoree in the Business Leadership category.

Over the course of my career, I have seen the sustainable development movement positively impact the values, commitments, and practices of all those who touch the built environment, including governments, schools, school districts, and students. Although we have come a long way since “green” entered the public domain, we have an even longer path to make it an embedded reality.

Working to ensure a green school for everyone in this generation is a critical opportunity for all of us, not only because schools account for a lot of resources, but because they house our future—they are places where students learn. Being able to teach students early about resource conservation and helping them build good habits at a young age is key to furthering the movement.

One of our core beliefs at WRNS Studio is that we need to approach educational design holistically—thinking about design at the policy level, as part of the curriculum, and as an educational tool for the community at large.

We are shifting green from a movement to a lifestyle by working with the states of California and Hawai’i. Last year, we worked with California’s Division of the State Architect’s 7x7x7 initiative to help 10,000 existing K–12 public schools reduce energy and water usage. We are continuing our work with Northern California school districts—whether it is designing LEED-targeted master plans or healthier classrooms. We are also working with the Hawaii Department of Education to green 256 existing campuses, developing templated strategies that can be deployed at every aspect of development.

On a national level, we have worked with Pacific Gas and Electric Company on their Zero Net Energy Pilot Project, which includes the Stevens Library at Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton, California—the first library in the United States and the first school building in California to achieve Net Zero Energy Building Certification from the International Future Living Institute (ILFI). In addition to partnering with ILFI on the Stevens Library, we are currently assisting them with five Living Building Challenge programs.

Our aim is to not only transform schools into healthier environments, but to create inspired places of learning and to support the growth and development of our planet’s future stewards, policymakers, business people, and community members. I have been blessed to be mentored and challenged by the sustainable community and am humbled to be recognized by the Best of Green Schools program as a partner in this pursuit.

This was originally published on the USGBC website’s Center for Green Schools page.