School administrators and planners are giving a lot of attention to the design of “high performance schools”; these are sustainable facilities that improve the learning environment while saving energy, resources, and money. While it is possible for good teachers and motivated students to perform at a high level almost anywhere, a well-designed facility can truly enhance performance and make education a more enjoyable and rewarding experience. School buildings that are comfortable, well-ventilated, well-lit, and safe will promote higher levels of academic achievement than buildings without such characteristics. In addition, they promote student, teacher, and staff health, so absenteeism is reduced.Creating a high performance school is not difficult, but it requires an integrated, "whole building" approach to the design process. Key systems and technologies must be considered together, from the beginning of the design process, and optimized based on their combined impact on the comfort and productivity of students and teachers.Lighting for the Sustainable SchoolMany schools want to adopt “green” strategies, implementing energy efficient technologies and processes to save natural resources, reduce waste and protect the earth. The challenge facing most school districts and boards of education is how to do this when funding is limited. Every year they have to make tough choices between teachers and educational programs, and renovating facilities to create quality learning environments and more energy-efficient schools.
One way to accomplish this goal is performance contracting, or investing in energy efficiency upgrades and using the energy and operational savings from those upgrades to offset their cost and pay for other improvements. Local utility incentive programs and Federal tax incentive and rebate programs may also be available to help reduce the financial investment in new energy efficient systems.
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