Sustainability isn't just for the planet (it helps students thrive too)

Thu, 2017-08-31 11:35 -- SCC Partner

When we talk about sustainability, we typically talk in terms of the environmental benefits (or the money we save while saving the environment). But there’s another good reason to talk about sustainability when it comes to schools: It’s good for the students.

Below, Onvia, which tracks public sector procurement, details a few inspiring projects. From the LEED-certified buildings that provide a more nurturing learning environment to the green roof that doubles as a playground, these ideas are worth a look. — Kevin Ebi

By Nick Schiffler, Onvia

Innovation in education is one of the hottest areas in government procurement. In a recent report, Onvia’s market research team found that government contracts related to education services grew by 20% in 2016 over 2015 – the second-fastest rate of growth across all industries.

While trends in education technology (also known as EdTech) and STEM programs are well known, one other key area many school districts are investing in is sustainable development, design and construction. Agencies are finding that sustainably designed schools and classrooms aren’t just better for the environment, but they provide better learning environments for students, as well.

A common tactic among school districts is to make an agreement with a private company for sustainable design consulting on an on-call basis. That way, when the district gains funding for a new construction or renovation project, they can then bring their consultant in to make sure the project adheres to LEED certification standards.

That’s the tactic that Atlanta Public Schools has been taking. They awarded contracts to four different vendors for, among other things, developing sustainable design and construction practices and reviewing project plans to make sure they met sustainability requirements.

The result? The school district was recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council for transforming its schools into sustainable and healthy places to learn, work and play. Atlanta Public Schools facilities make up 10% of all LEED-certified K-12 buildings in the entire state of Georgia.

“LEED gives us an opportunity to design, construct and operate schools in an environmental manner,” said David Freedman, the Executive Director of the U.S. Green Building Council of Georgia. “It is particularly important to provide schools that have less of a negative impact and better learning environments for students, staff and school visitors.”

Ogden Elementary School in Chicago is a good example of how green construction can benefit both students and the environment. Among other sustainable features, it hosts a building-integrated photovoltaic system and a vegetative roof that doubles as a playground.

By looking to blueprints like the ones set in Atlanta and Chicago, cities and school districts can make sustainable investments that pay off down the road in more ways than one.

Nick Schiffler is a business-to-government (B2G) market analyst and content marketer for Onvia, the leader in sales intelligence and acceleration for B2G. Follow Onvia on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay up to date with the latest government market insights.