As delegates gather in Milwaukee this week for the 90th Annual Wisconsin Association of School Boards convention, a large topic of conversation will be how new trends in education construction are providing cost savings and improved school environments for students and staff. Here at Miron, we are proud to say we continue to remain on the leading edge of many of these new construction strategies and techniques:
For the last few decades deeming a school to be sustainable meant turning the lights out at the end of the day, marking Earth Day on the calendar and putting recycling bins in every classroom. Today, trends in construction have allowed schools to achieve new levels of energy and cost saving success. Many school districts have saved thousands of dollars in long-term costs for taxpayers by retrofitting current facilities and building better, more efficient schools.
Constructing sustainable schools is not just about saving money and energy; it also means additional benefits in health and safety for the students and staff who utilize the facility every day. New technology allows school districts to take a proactive approach in addressing things like air quality within the school environment and natural lighting for improved student learning.
A sustainable school also allows teachers to use the school as a teaching tool for students. Recently, in Lake Mills, Miron’s Director of Sustainable Services Theresa Lehman helped science teachers develop a curriculum around the new sustainable aspects of their school, including the geothermal heating system.
Safety and Security:
Concerns about safety and security are always a focus during school construction, prompting innovative design strategies that minimize the impact of natural and man-made hazards. Schools with back-up, off-grid, renewable power systems certainly serve a purpose during emergencies. Schools can also be secured in a ways that minimize security risks and help protect students and staff throughout the day. These designs include the ability to increase occupants’ sense of ownership and “territoriality” by providing comfortable – rather than institutional – rooms, by clearly defining the school boundaries and controlling access to the building and grounds by individuals and vehicles.
Multi-Use, Flexible Facilities:
School districts and administrators deal with the uncertainty of enrollment numbers from year to year. To ensure flexibility for changing programs and enrollments, design elements can be incorporated to ensure the longevity of a new school facility or remodel. These include:
- Using operable walls to increase the efficiency of large, multi-purpose spaces
- Creating spaces that can accommodate technology upgrades
- Building classrooms that change with the activity and group size, particularly important in primary schools, where students typically stay in one room with one teacher throughout much of the day
Interior Design Innovations:
There are some important design elements in creating functional school space; clustering classrooms around common areas, connecting spaces visually with colors and patterns, providing platform spaces for gathering, sitting and presenting, and alcoves for quiet play or reading can all make for a better learning environment. Companies like Target Commercial Interiors have pioneered innovative classroom furniture to promote flexibility and interaction between students and staff.
We are excited and look forward to sharing ideas on how we can help Wisconsin school districts with their sustainability efforts during this week’s Wisconsin Association of School Boards convention, and in the years ahead.
See a video about how Miron helped the Lake Mills School District “Go Green”: