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Articles: Construction

Gone are the days of squishy grass and pothole-laden school fields: artificial turf fields are becoming an increasingly popular option for districts nationwide for their ease of use and cost-effective maintenance.

It’s a common situation: A school district in desperate need of additions or renovations and technology upgrades borrows money from investors, to be paid back with interest. But for the Poway Unified School District in San Diego County, Calif., there is a twist: They don’t need to make any payments on the $105 million they borrowed in 2011 until 2033, so the district’s debt will continue to grow as interest on the loan amasses. In the end, taxpayers will be charged $877 million in interest alone.

Reed Intermediate School, Newtown (Conn.) Public SchoolsDistricts looking to balance cost, sustainability and their carbon footprint when building a new school should consider wood, urges reThink Wood, a national coalition of North America’s forestry and wood industries. Formed in 2011, the coalition promotes wood as a low-carbon alternative to steel, masonry and concrete.

Facing the twin specter of state and local budget cuts, Falcon School District 49 in Peyton, Colo., has done “some pretty radical things” with technology that have enabled the district to survive without drastic staff cuts, according to Kim McClelland, assistant superintendent and innovation leader for one of various regions in the district. The moves even allowed teachers to receive a 2 percent raise for the 2012-2013 school year.

green schools, solatube

MUSE School CA, a non-profit k8 school in Malibu, Calif., partnered with Solatube International last year to provide natural daylight in school classrooms, increase the performance of students and teachers and enrich the sustainable design. Solatube Daylighting Systems harvest daylight on the rooftop and allocate light evenly into a room with a highly reflective tube and diffuser at the ceiling.

Springfield (Pa.) Literacy Center, sustainable schools

Imagine a school with classrooms on only one side of the building, windows that look out onto picturesque landscape, a path outside that features the ABCs, and a forest area with a tree house where a classroom of kids can read. The Springfield Literacy Center is that place, and 600 kindergartners and first-graders in the Springfield (Pa.) School District gather for school there every day.

Don’t Forget Education

Former West Va. Gov. Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, has urged the presidential candidates to not forget about education policies in the 2012 election. A College Board poll says education is behind the economy and jobs in top issues.

Greenville Schools Create Renewable Energy

In late 2010, Greenville Public Schools, a rural district in Michigan, ranked in the 95th percentile nationally for sustainable schools. The district has since applied for LEED certification, the U.S. Green Building Council’s rating system, following completion of a green energy project with Johnson Controls.

The federal government last formally assessed the state of the nation’s schools in the 1999 report “Condition of America’s Public Schools,” which estimated that it would take $127 billion to bring our nation’s schools to “good condition.” The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issued its own report card the same year. In “The Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” the ASCE gave schools a D grade and estimated an even greater dollar amount ($322 billion) was needed over five years to bring schools into good condition.

A fire caused by spontaneous combustion destroyed South Bay Elementary School in West Babylon (N.Y.) on Feb. 18, 2010.

On Feb. 18, 2010, a spontaneous combustion occurred at South Bay Elementary School in the West Babylon (N.Y.) Union Free School District while the gym floor was being refinished on the final day of the school’s winter vacation. Although no one was injured, the entire school was set aflame and left nothing for the 300 students expected to return the following day. Though considered to be the worst school fire in the greater New York region, South Bay was rebuilt in less than two years, opening this past fall, and students only missed one day of school due to the fire.

Students at the Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton, Conn. can walk on a boardwalk through a pond and marsh.

“It’s a three-dimensional textbook,” says Jeff Elliott, architect with JCJ Architecture, of the aquatic-themed Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton, Conn. The school, located on the Connecticut shore near New London Harbor and designed by JCJ, first opened its doors to roughly 100 ninth- and tenth-graders this past fall. It includes nautical features such as large windows for observing the aquatic culture and a first-of-its-kind ship simulator for learning how to navigate ships in ports.

Rosa Parks Elementary

The "Big One" is coming, said Chris Goldfinger, professor in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, at the American Institute of Architects' Portland conference in late June. Goldfinger, a renowned expert on earthquakes, believes that within the next 50 years, Washington and northern Oregon face a 10 to 15 percent chance of an offshore quake that could cause a powerful tsunami, and southern Oregon has more than a 37 percent chance of experiencing a magnitude 8 or higher earthquake.

Lady Bird Johnson Middle School opening in the Irving (Texas) Independent School District this August is named after the Texas native and former First Lady, who died in 2007. The 152,000- square-foot school is designed to be a net-zero school, which means it will produce as much energy as it consumes. In fact, it will be the largest net-zero middle school in the nation. Irving ISD is located in a suburb of Dallas and has 34,000 students and 37 educational facilities.

The first crop of Green Ribbon Schools, recognized for energy conservation, creating healthy learning spaces, school grounds, building operations and teaching environmental literacy, will be announced next year by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Gloria Marshall Elementary School

The new Gloria Marshall Elementary School, opening this fall to 730 pre-K5 students in the Spring (Texas) Independent School District, will sport an aquatic pond for students to study its ecosystem, a butterfly garden, an above-ground cistern to collect rainwater, and a wind turbine. Inside will be a computer in the school lobby allowing students to view the amount of energy the roof's solar panels are harnessing. It will be one of the greenest schools in Texas and the first in Houston to use geothermal heating and cooling.