Sustainable Site Selection for Schools
by Lisa Gelfand with Eric Corey Freed
In the case of a new school, the first job for the working group is selecting a site. All the decisions that go into making a sustainable campus or building follow. Location defines the impacts of development both to the site itself and to surrounding neighborhoods, transportation, habitat, and hydrology.
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The location of a school is an emotionally charged issue. School boards will hear from parents, neighbors, and real-estate interests. Families buy houses based on the attendance boundaries for public schools. Many of these issues overlap with sustainability concerns.
Transportation impacts, habitats, and water must all be seen in the framework of the concern parents have for children's safety, the concerns neighbors have for traffic congestion, and the concern school staff and parents have for easily maintained, tidy school grounds.
Schools produce noise when active children are outside playing. Schools are also places where the most vulnerable population is concentrated — should they be next to highways, factories, pipelines, or high-voltage lines?
Schools may not be the functions best located on a brownfield or other seriously degraded site unless the team is ready to prove that an extraordinary level of thoroughness has been applied to removing potential dangers.
A school site choice must meet a commonsense test: Is this the right place for children to spend their day?
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This article is excerpted from Sustainable School Architecture by Lisa Gelfand with Eric Corey Freed, copyright © 2010, with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons.