Green Star in the Inner City
Academy High School
The phrase "inner city school" doesn't usually conjure up images of green
space, open windows and high attendance rates. But in September 2006, the
9th to 12th
graders at Maywood Academy High School in downtown Los Angeles not only
began their school term in a new school, they attended a new kind
Maywood Academy is a showcase "green" school in the Los Angeles
Unified School District (LAUSD).
In the months since it opened, it has made the case that, aside from
reducing environmental impact, sustainable design can dramatically
improve a school's learning environment – and even its attendance rates.
"It was a huge team effort to make
a High Performance Showcase school," says Ying Wang, program manager for
CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools) for the LAUSD.
"There were tremendous in-house efforts to push the sustainable agenda
through on this school," she says, "from selecting architects willing to
go through the learning curve to meet sustainability standards at no extra
cost to us, to working with
Southern California Edison and the
Public Utilities Commission on energy issues, to all the various
stakeholders participating in the design and building processes.
"The collaboration and team effort is major in a showcase school
creation," she says. "For example,
Savings-by-Design, a statewide program administered by California's
four investor-owned utilities that encourages energy-efficient building
design and construction, helped to run the energy modeling…to achieve the
greatest energy savings."
located southeast of downtown Los Angeles, was built to relieve
overcrowding at neighboring high schools. Dr. Evelyn Mahmud, director of
support services for secondary schools at LAUSD, says attendance at
Maywood is in the 90th percentile, one of the highest daily
attendance records of any of the District's high schools. This in spite of
the fact that Maywood's student body is comprised of a high percentage of
so-called "underserved" students, including many ESL (English as a Second
Language) students. She attributes the high level of student attendance to
the fact that students "respect and take care of the campus."
LAUSD was one of the first districts in the state to adopt the CHPS
criteria and commit to building green schools. These criteria will soon
become the standard for the entire state and will be the basis on which
Proposition 1D incentive funds for high performance schools will be
allocated. (For more on Proposition 1D and high performance schools, see
"Proposition 1D Nurtures Green Schools.")
WLC Architects to meet CHPS standards and fulfill LAUSD priorities,
consists of 5 buildings that compose 132,000 square feet on 9 acres. Three
of the five buildings are multi-storied to conserve land and ensure that
ample green space is available to students. Loi Thai, WLC's architect on
says the biggest challenge was energy efficiency. "To achieve our goal, we
had to do more than what the mechanical system could perform," he says.
"The window treatment was part of the strategy, as well as the building
Windows feature vertical overhangs with vertical fins and "Low-E"
insulated glass to control sunlight and heat gain. Using
EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems) as a building finish
added another level of insulation. The
cool roof is a thermoplastic membrane that reflects the sun's energy
from the roof surface.
John Zinner, green building consultant and principal of
Zinner Consultants, works with school districts on developing
green schools. He advised the LAUSD on the Maywood Academy and says they
focused the architect's efforts on criteria that were important to the
District. The first priority was to address factors that impacted student
performance and student and staff health. The second priority was to
minimize operating costs.
Since daylighting can play a big part in student performance, Maywood
Academy makes use of natural light where possible, supplementing with
Solatube skylights™ in areas of the classrooms farther from the
windows. Director Mahmud says, "On the third floor, solar lighting is in
place. This makes a striking difference for staff and students. The bright
lighting creates an openness and gives the illusion of space. You don't
feel locked in or pressed together, and I observe students actively
involved in learning."
Student performance is also enhanced by good acoustics (a CHPS
prerequisite), particularly important for
ESL students. Every classroom features sound absorbing wall panels and
acoustical ceiling tiles. Dual-pane windows help reduce the amount of
noise and also boost energy performance. The mechanical systems are
isolated to reduce the amount of noise. These features make a difference,
Mahmud says. "I visit the District's secondary schools weekly. At Maywood,
the student noise level is less than in a conventional school. The
students also pass between classes in a more orderly fashion and leave the
Cost is undoubtedly a factor in a district's decision to build a green
school. Zinner cites studies which show that a green building will cost
zero to three percent more than a conventional structure. "If you do it
right, meaning you incorporate green design from the beginning, rather
than as an add-on, it doesn't cost much," he says.
opened in September 2006, too recently to allow an accumulation of data
about the cost of maintenance. However, the new systems have raised new
issues. Guy Mehula, LAUSD's chief facilities executive, says, "We have
different systems at Maywood Academy. Not only does the facilities staff
have to be trained on using the systems, but it is important that teachers
and other staff are trained as well to maximize the school's green
features. When the windows are opened, for example, the HVAC (heating,
ventilation and air conditioning) system automatically shuts off to
promote energy efficiency."
While the jury is still out on long term maintenance costs, Mahmud is
clearly enthusiastic about the school's benefits for its students. "The
message sent to the students in this community is that you do matter. We
value you and your learning experience. Students who chose Maywood Academy
knew that they wouldn't be attending a traditional high school. They have
strict educational guidelines and small learning communities. They chose
Maywood because it is new and environmentally beautiful and they have a
sense of pride in being the first students at the school."