The notion of smart schools is hardly new to the Australian interior design industry.
In fact, the education system was one of the first major focuses of green building efforts. This makes sense as, according to the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), green schools consume on average 32 per cent less water and 33 per cent less energy than their conventional counterparts. This can lower operating costs by an average of just under $100,000 annually, enough to buy 200 new computers or 5,000 textbooks according to the green building authority.
While we understand the effects that green building have on both the environment and finances, its impacts on our health are becoming more and more understood. This is especially relevant when considering Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) and the effects it can have on a new generation of Australian students.
According to a US study, Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits, 41 per cent of children in green schools saw improvements to their health, including a decrease in asthma symptoms, flu and respiratory issues. Perhaps as a result, 15 per cent were able to improve their productivity and 25 per cent improved on their test scores thanks to good lighting and ventilation.
The Heschong Mahone Daylighting Study confirms the impacts on education. In the study, 21,000 students’ responses and reactions to indoor environmental changes were analysed.
The test revealed that students in spaces with these improved interior elements progressed 20 per cent faster in maths and 26 per cent faster in reading, with an overall performance increase of five to 10 per cent in children who had window views.
“Every child deserves to go to a school with healthy air to breathe and conditions that encourage learning,” says the GBCA.
While these results are dramatic, they should not be overly surprising. It is well-known that these same elements can vastly improve the health and well-being of those in medical institutions, so it stands to reason that healthy people exposed to these same elements would also experience benefits to their health and well-being.
Green classrooms are the next step in the evolution of school design, not simply because they are more economically and environmentally responsible but because they are garner greater potential from a new generation of students, providing them with a healthier, more productive space in which to learn and grow.