EPA Schools Resources

Healthy and efficient schools are a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency priority and the agency has a number of excellent programs and resources. Below is a link to a list of EPA websites where you can accesses information on these valuable resources.

School Technical Assistance Program

The goal of making the learning environment for our nation's children one that supports education, rather than one that detracts from it through uncomfortable and unhealthy classroom environments and needlessly high energy costs, is successfully addressed by the different facets of the ASERTTI Energy and Environment in Schools Technical Assistance Program supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and ASERTTI Members. This initiative builds on the results of four state-based technology transfer and demonstration projects conducted over the past several years, and aims to highlight the need for energy and environmental improvements in schools.

Why is Saving Energy and Improving the Learning Environment Important?

Our nation’s schools have a collective energy bill of more than $6 billion each year. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that at least 25 percent of that amount, or approximately $1.5 billion, could be saved each year through better building design, widely available energy efficient and renewable energy technologies, and improvements to operations and maintenance. Technologies and improvements such as the use of daylighting, improved indoor air quality, improved environment of portable classrooms, and energy efficient integrated building technologies used in high performance schools offer great potential for significant energy savings that would translate to financial savings for state and county governments across the nation.

Daylighting

Daylighting is the choice, science, or practice of using daylight as the primary daytime illuminant in a room or building. Cool Daylighting is the successful application of daylighting to the contemporary challenges of buildings that are internally load-dominated buildings—that is, they easily become overheated during the winter because they are so tightly sealed. The goal is to use daylighting to reduce the need for electric lighting and space cooling (important for school facilities that are used year-round as is happening in many communities.) Beyond energy savings and reduced construction costs, daylighting offers many benefits for the people who use the buildings. For example, research has found that student performance improves when daylight is available in the classroom.

Integrated Building Design

High performance energy efficient schools use a whole building, integrated design strategy that incorporates the best of today's ideas and technologies. From the beginning of the design process, each of the building elements (windows, walls, building materials, air-conditioning, landscaping, etc.) is considered part of an integrated system of interacting components. Choices in one area often affect other building systems; integrated design leverages these interactions to maximize the overall building performance. High performance schools are not only energy efficient, but also healthy, comfortable, well lit, and contain the amenities needed for a quality education.

Indoor Air Quality

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times -- and occasionally more than 100 times -- higher than outdoor levels. These levels of indoor air pollutants are of great concern in school buildings where our children, their teachers and administrators spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. Good indoor air quality (IAQ) management includes: Control of airborne pollutants; Introduction and distribution of adequate outdoor air; and Maintenance of acceptable temperature and relative humidity. Outdoor sources should also be considered since outdoor air enters school buildings through windows, doors, and ventilation systems. Thus, transportation and grounds maintenance activities become factors that affect indoor pollutant levels as well as outdoor air quality on school grounds.

Portable Classroom

Portable classrooms have become a common and acceptable low-cost solution for school districts dealing with shrinking school budgets and expanding enrollments. In many instances, this short-term fix often becomes a permanent classroom. As an example, nearly one third of all portable classrooms in Oregon are more than 20 years old. While initial costs of portable classrooms are low, their on-going operating costs are high. Portable classrooms usually have minimal insulation. Other major problems with portables include poor indoor air quality, inadequate natural light, and an unstable room temperature. Most portable classrooms are built with materials and finishes that emit high volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These noxious fumes are even more of a concern because of the poor ventilation in most portables.