Brand new Auckland school Ormiston Senior College has opened its doors with a notable point of difference. As well as its unique appearance, it’s also the first school in New Zealand to be awarded the 5 Green Star 2009 Education rating from the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC). It was awarded 68 points, only six points away from achieving the 6 star rating.
Designed by Jasmax and built by Fletcher Construction, the $50 million school features energy-efficient lighting and heating, efficient use of water, solar panels, sustainably-sourced materials, and a form of wind-tower being used for the first time in New Zealand. The tower, featuring a number of vents on the roof, is a ventilation system that provides natural airflow with low running costs.
NZGBC chief executive Alex Cutler says the benefits of the school go beyond just environmental.
“Studies in other countries show that green school buildings are better learning environments for students, and reduce sickness and staff turnover. And they are simply cheaper to run thanks to their efficient use of energy and water,” he says.
That’s a sentiment echoed by secretary of education Karen Sewell, who says green schools improve the health and well being of students and teachers alike.
“5 Green Star schools are the schools of the future,” says Sewell.
In 2006, Gregory Kats, of national clean energy technology and green building firm Capital E, released the report Greening America’s Schools: Costs and benefits. Comprised of a national review of 30 green schools in America, the report found green schools cost less than 2 percent more than conventional schools—approximately US$3 (NZ$3.9) per square foot, yet provide financial benefits that are 20 times as large.
So with so many benefits, why wouldn’t you go green? Kat’s report refers to a 2005 survey of 665 seniour executives by Turner Construction Company. It found executives are put off from green construction because of concerns around cost, a lack of awareness and a lack of information on the financial benefits of green buildings.