Sandboxes and Solar Panels



Public schools across the country are adding sustainability and environmental awareness to their lesson plans. In some areas teachers are battling the ability to teach sustainability within an energy-draining and unhealthy portable that, in some cases, was built well over 50 years ago. An innovative project called The Green Schoolhouse Series is on a mission to change all that. With the help of volunteers, school officials, community members, building partners, and corporations, The Green Schoolhouse Series is on target to build donated, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-designed, green schoolhouses on existing, low-income, public school campuses across the country.

These schoolhouses will enable children to learn and grow in a healthy environment, and encourage them through both design and curriculum to think of creative ways to live healthy and to understand sustainability. There will be 6,000 to 15,000 square feet of teaching tools, with features such as green gardens, solar panels, energy usage monitors, and rainwater catchment.

“We know that, to secure the future of our nation and our place in the global economy, educating students on the issues of the environment and sustainability will be key,” explains Andree Charlson, principal at Orangewood School in Phoenix. “Therefore, the development and interaction with the Green Schoolhouse will provide hands-on learning and connections for our students and the community.”

The first three schoolhouses will be built in the Phoenix area, replacing aging portables with a permanent facility. Each schoolhouse will be used as classroom space during the school hours and after-school programs, and available to the community during evenings and weekends.

Companies and organizations have jumped at the chance to showcase their green products and are eager to work with the country’s top architects, engineers, and general contractors on the project.

“Emc2 chose to partner with The Green Schoolhouse for three key reasons: to be part of a unique project delivery process that benefits a school district without affecting their capital costs; to help create a sustainable design solution for a LEED Platinum building that benefits student learning; and to improve school design,” explains Brandon Pullin, principal at Emc2 Group Architects Planner, PC, the architectural team designing the schoolhouse at the Orangewood School. “We are looking forward to completing this fantastic learning space with a great client using a truly unique project delivery process.”

Pullin is working with general contractors from the Phoenix office of Kitchell on the Orangewood School schoolhouse. The elementary school is well known in the community for its music program, but because of limited space, students needed to walk to a nearby high school for performances. This passion for the performing arts is what led the designers to create the Studio, a state-of-the-art facility that will include both indoor and outdoor performance space, a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) themed classroom provided by DeVry University, and a large multipurpose area for students to meet and collaborate on performances sponsored by Alliance Bank of Arizona.

The Green Schoolhouse Series broke ground in December on its first build at Roadrunner Elementary School, the Safari model, in Phoenix. This schoolhouse is slated to be the world’s first LEED Platinum schoolhouse built entirely by volunteers. The school features energy-efficient HVAC units donated by Price Industries, which will improve the air the children breathe, and zero-VOC paints provided by Glidden Professional. The Phoenix office of Hensel Phelps Construction Co. is working with architects from Stantec and engineers from David Evans and Associates Inc. to design the premier schoolhouse. Some of the environmentally friendly features of Safari will include a native garden provided by support from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, rainwater catchment system from BRAE, and some of the most energy-efficient restrooms on the market donated through a partnership with SLOAN and Excel Dryer, Inc.

The support of partners who have made it their mission to give back to the community makes this project possible. “We are excited to provide hands-on support to The Green Schoolhouse Series project and provide new, sustainable buildings for Roadrunner Elementary and the community,” said Jon Pettibone, Phoenix office managing partner for the Quarles & Brady law firm, which is sponsoring a community classroom area at Safari.

The Green Schoolhouse Series’ third Arizona project, called “the Loft,” is being built at Phoenix’s Rio Salado College Downtown-Sustaining Learning campus to make it a premier sustainable learning center. The schoolhouse, designed by architects at Architectural Resource Team, Inc., with The Weitz Company as the general contractor, will be used to train and prepare grades 9-12 for careers in the world of sustainability.

Any public school in need of support and having shown a commitment to sustainability and community involvement is eligible to receive the gift of a Green Schoolhouse. Students of all backgrounds deserve to learn in an environmentally sound space that encourages healthy academic growth. The Green Schoolhouse Series hopes that this collaboration will be the catalyst to improve public school facilities across the country.

1 Comment
  1. This is a great idea. Getting companies to help public education with green, sustainable schoolhouses is a win-win.

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