LEEDing from the front

American International School Chennai that has been awarded LEED Gold certification generates nearly 20% of the energy it consumes through solar power

November 29, 2017 12:59 am | Updated 09:10 am IST - Chennai

 The American International School Chennai that was awarded the LEED certification on Tuesday.

The American International School Chennai that was awarded the LEED certification on Tuesday.

Across the world, there is now a greater willingness to adopt sustainable practices particularly with using energy sources. This is reflected in Chennai too, where more and more buildings are attempting to prioritise environment-friendly design, or trying to tweak their existing structures to be more ‘sustainable’. This list includes corporate complexes, hospitals, some government buildings and even schools.

Taking a step forward by incorporating sustainable practices as a part of their functioning, the American International School Chennai (AISC) has been awarded LEED Gold Certification by the Green Business Certification Institute (GBCI).

While there are around 2,500 ongoing projects associated with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) across the country, among them are a number of schools as well. The American International School is one of the first in the world to be certified the gold status using the ARC platform, which displays real time data based on various parameters.

For hospitals and educational institutions, operational and maintenance cost over the long run will decrease when sustainable practices are adopted Pavitra SriprakashLEED certified architect

“The education sector is a very critical one with regard to adapting sustainable practices and we are encouraging more institutions to take this up since it will prove to be a great foundation for the community and the children. Sustainable practices can either be brought in at the design stage itself where steps can be taken to design a green building or can be incorporated in an existing building,” explained P. Gopalakrishnan, Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Middle East Markets of GBCI.

He further said that there was a need for creating awareness among schools to incorporate sustainable practices into their functioning.

“Around 10 years back, a green building would have been costlier to maintain. The costs have come down now and the savings are definitely more than the costs involved to develop the infrastructure,” he explained.

The performance of the American International School Chennai was rated in five key areas:
  • 1. Energy - 27/33 based on the school's usage of Electricity, diesel and liquid petroleum gas
  • 2. Water - 7/15 Amount of potable and non-potable water the school uses
  • 3. Waste - 8/8 weight of the trash the school creates
  • 4. Transportation - 12/14 Distance of the school campus to the homes of the students and the means of transport
  • 5. Human Experience - 11/20 Total Volatile Organic Compounds(IVOC) overall and CO2 levels and satisfaction in terms of comfort of occupants

A plaque describing the score of the campus, with regard to its energy and water consumption, transportation used, waste generated and human experience has been placed in the foyer of the school, which declares that the space is an LEED certified one.

“As you can see, our score with regard to ‘Waste’ or the weight of the trash that the school creates is an 8 on 8. Students have been encouraged to make minimal use of paper and plastic on campus and bring in reusable water bottles,” said Kirsten Welbes, Director of Advancement of the AISC. To facilitate waste segregation, the campus has separate bins set up for glass, plastic, food waste and paper at different spots. During a tour of the campus, Ms. Welbes pointed at the floors of the gymnasium and the outdoor learning centre, both laid with recycled polyurethane.

S. Ilangovan, the facilities manager of the school, said that with the installation of 958 solar panels, the campus generates nearly 20% of the energy it consumes through solar power as well. At a ceremony on Tuesday evening, the school was awarded the certification. “In our organisational core beliefs, we have committed to being environmentally responsible and our efforts to engage LEED is about making good decisions which will reduce our long-term reliance on fossil fuels,” said Andrew Hoover, Head of the school.

Steps taken by the school
  • 1. Motion sensors in classrooms that trigger the lights to come on with movement
  • 2. Separate bins placed at vantage points for source segregation of garbage- food waste, plastic, glass, paper and metal
  • 3. Surface of the outdoor learning centre for younger children and the gymnasium for older students laid with recycled Polyurethene
  • 4. Installation of 958 solar panels on the roofs of the school buildings
  • 5. Rainwater harvesting system that has a capacity of around 15 lakh litres of water

The school is further exploring the curriculum connections they can make with the sustainable practices in place.

Long-term cost

In Chennai, there has been a focus on ‘green’ buildings with regard to office spaces and how to make workspaces more sustainable, said Pavitra Sriprakash, a LEED certified architect and Director at Shilpa Architects. “For hospitals and educational institutions, operational and maintenance costs over the long run will see a decrease when sustainable practices are adopted,” she said.

  • LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building rating system used across the world for all building project types including schools and colleges. A framework is provided by LEED which can be adapted by institutions to create an efficient, healthy and sustainable green buildings. The Green Business Certification Institute(GBCI), is the organisation which certifies all LEED green building projects.
  • In India, there are currently around 2,500 ongoing LEED projects of which, many are educational institutions. Other projects include hospitals, housing projects, IT Parks and commercial spaces such as malls.
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