Belmont and Royal Bay Secondary schools recently unveiled relatively small, crystal plaques in the front hallways of the respective schools commemorating the certification of both to the LEED Gold Standard.
And while the plaques may have been understated, the accomplishment they commemorated was enormous.
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a rating system recognized in more than 160 countries and represents the standard for green buildings around the world.
It’s important because studies have shown that buildings generate as much as 35 per cent of all greenhouse gases, 35 per cent of landfill waste during construction, and that they consume as much as 70 per cent of municipal water in any given region.
Given the proven and serious threats posed by global climate change, it’s only appropriate that the buildings where the minds of tomorrow are being shaped are setting the standard for environmental stewardship, said Belmont principal Ray Miller.
“Our students are engaged in all kinds of environmental causes. The way the LEED program works, and it’s requirement for on-going actions on the part of the people who occupy the buildings, is perfect for our students. These young people want to remain engaged in the goals of the program and take pride in being part of the solution to our environmental challenges,” said Miller.
Achieving a LEED gold standard is not just a matter of designing and building an environmentally friendly structure.
Ron Hoffart, one of the principle architects for the buildings, was at the plaque unveiling and explained that the standard requires that all the partners take up the challenge to make it work.
“It’s not just a matter of the architects building something that’s written into the RFP [request for proposals] for a project. We go through the [LEED] list and select materials and designs to adhere to the standard but the same has to be true of the builders. How they construct the building, what recycling methods they use, and the procedures they follow all contribute to achieving this standard,” said Hoffart. “And then, it’s up to the people occupying the building to continue to use the building responsibly. Everyone has to be involved.”
School board chair Ravi Parmar lauded, not only the school division for its commitment to sustainable environmental practices, but the principals and staff at the schools to their continued commitment as well. The students were also given credit for their concern and adherence to procedures within the schools.
Parmar gave a special thanks to Langford Mayor Stew Young and his staff whose co-operation and support were integral to the construction and inspection process at Belmont.
“These partnerships are so important. Mayor Young and his staff made it possible in ways too numerous to list here today,” said Parmar.
The LEED standard requires the occupants and operators of a building to adhere to multiple behavioural standards that include such items as the water use reduction, storage and collection of recyclables and even the use of environmentally friendly cleaning products. The list for construction and occupancy has more than 200 checkpoints and is monitored by the Canada Green Building Council and LEED Canada.
Jim Cambridge, SD62 superintendent, explained that its the small things that can add up to making a building more environmentally friendly.
“We have no microwave ovens in classrooms, only in central locations, and we planted native plants on the grounds to reduce the need for watering. We compost and we give tours of the building to members of the community to show them what we’re doing and how they can adopt some of our strategies,” said Cambridge.
“The trick is that you actually have to do things. It’s not enough to have parking spots designated for car pooling cars; you have to fill those spots with cars belonging to people who have actually embraced car pooling. That’s when you start to make a difference.”