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ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012

Designing Sustainable Schools argument about the importance of financial stewardship, it was apparent that stewardship of the environment was also important to these leaders, even if to a lesser degree. Few superintendents associated sustainability with the school’s core mission of educating children. In most instances, the superintendents viewed the three aspects not only as independent of each other, but also in competition with each other. And clearly, the economic principles outweighed the social and environmental. In some cases, there was a tangential relationship whereby the finances were modulated to accommodate the social and environmental principles. Keeping schools affordable for the future is the best return on investment that a school district can make. Superintendents must measure the life cycle costs and environmental impact of facilities with far more scrutiny than the cost per square foot. In one district, building green provided unanticipated revenue as student enrollment increased and the vision to build a green high school turned out to be strategic. To address the declining enrollment, community leaders made a bold commitment to construct a green, LEED®-certified high school at a time when they were uncommon throughout the country. Only 60 projects were officially certified with the U.S. Green Building Council (2008) at that time and this was the first LEED® certified high school in this Midwestern state. Once the building opened to students in 2006, enrollment grew and today students from surrounding areas choose to attend this high school and participate in its green technology curriculum. School funding formulae make the construction of sustainable buildings a wise investment for design decision-makers. As one board of education trustee explained: The way that schools are funded today includes two pots of money. You get money to build a building and money to operate a building. . . . Today, you have to keep your operating costs as low as you can. A reduction of energy costs through sustainable building practices funded through a capital project can directly add dollars to the operating fund to pay for teachers’ salaries, textbooks, and other educational priorities. One board member estimated that the operational savings to the district was well worth the upfront costs, “Based on our estimates, we should save about $60,000 a year, the cost of a teacher.” Conclusions and Recommendations This multiple case study explored the role of superintendents in the construction of sustainable school buildings. The theoretical framework proposed that a superintendent’s knowledge of sustainability and attitude toward sustainability were linked to the superintendent’s influence on green building practices in each of the districts studied. The literature appropriately implied that the design and construction of school facilities has been inextricably linked to societal concerns throughout this nation’s history. In addition, current economic and social priorities have advanced the case for sustainability. According to the 24 participants interviewed in this study, both knowledge and attitude regarding sustainability are determinants in a superintendent’s sustainable design decisions. The underlying conclusion of the interview data in this research study is that sustainable choices are made based on a comprehensive knowledge of sustainability and a positive attitude regarding sustainability. It was made clear that the attitude of superintendents regarding sustainability had changed in recent years. This may be attributed to the increased global awareness regarding climate change, the increased energy costs and also to the superintendent’s active participation in building a green school under their leadership. December 2012 / ACEF 66


ACEF Journal Vol 3 Issue 1 December 2012
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