Q&A: Experiencing the first-ever Green Schools National Conference

Posted on Nov 9, 2010 by Miron Construction

Last week, school leaders, students, parents and policymakers gathered for the first-ever Green Schools National Conference in Minneapolis to promote environmental literacy and sustainable schools across the country. Chad Pingel, sustainable services manager, and Greg Douglas, vice-president of design-build services, attended the conference and here they share their thoughts on what they learned.

What current trends did you hear about in green building for schools?
Green building for schools is shifting away from being just a trend. It is evolving quickly into a more common practice for school districts looking to build or renovate.

The trends have grown beyond the buildings and into the curriculum, operation and maintenance. It seems like the building occupants embrace the green movement in the educational market more than other markets.

Who is the most interesting person you met while at the conference?
I met a teachers’ union representative who didn’t believe in the benefits of seeking LEED certification on school projects. It gave me a good opportunity to educate a decision maker and help them realize the positive benefits that follow certification, including operation cost savings, improved test scores, decreased recorded sick days and student and staff health improvements.

What can we expect to see in 2011 for green school construction?
I think you will see many more materials that are GREENGUARD certified for schools. This will improve the performance of materials and make the selection and approval of materials easier for the designers. Also, Target Commercial Interiors has innovative classroom furniture to promote flexibility and interaction between students.

What are some ways that schools can go green without building from the ground up?
The notion of the need to build an entire new school is false. Miron is currently completing certification of the Lake Mills School project, an existing school that added on while preserving its original structure. This project was truly a labor of love due to the community becoming interested in LEED certification for schools. Students give back to the community by providing tours of their newly remodeled school and explaining its sustainable features.

Greg: School ‘reuse’ by definition is much more sustainable than a new school. While existing buildings may have limitations, most sustainable features are relatively easy to incorporate into an existing school. Some of these features include increased day-lighting, improved HVAC performance, lighting and low VOC/regional materials.

What is the most interesting thing you heard while at the conference?
The most interesting part for me was being part of a collaboration of professionals, teachers, students and volunteers who want to learn about what they can do to improve their current curriculum or how they can create a better environment for students.

Greg: The most interesting part was not something I learned at the conference, but by observing the city. Minneapolis is a great example of a green city. The city was alive with pedestrian traffic and a bicycle exchange program that is easy to use. The buildings were connected with a skywalk system that promoted interaction between retail, hospitality and commercial uses. The sidewalks were ample with many patio spaces, trees, lighting and friendly faces.

Greg and Chad both had an excellent opportunity to learn more about the present and future of green education. Greg also had the opportunity, along with Dean Sanders, district administrator for the Lake Mills school district, to present on the Lake Mills school project and explain how sustainable construction has impacted their district and community. See more on the project. You can learn more about the project by watching this video:

Greg Douglas, vice president of design-build services, brings more than 29 years of design and construction experience to the Miron family. He is responsible for maintaining a close working relationship between Miron’s external design partners and internal pre-construction resources. Greg is a licensed Professional Architect in the State of Wisconsin and with the American Institute of Architects. He is also a LEED Accredited Professional.

Chad Pingel, sustainable services manager, is responsible for training and assisting the construction project teams working toward LEED certification on all of Miron’s LEED projects. Chad has been with Miron for only one and half years, but has worked on 26 different LEED projects in four different states. Chad graduated from UW-Stout with a major in Construction Management and minor in Risk Control. As a LEED Accredited Professional with a strong understanding of construction practices, he is well suited to apply LEED requirements to Miron’s numerous construction projects.

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