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NSW govt launches sustainability guide for schools

The NSW Government Architect and School Infrastructure NSW have released an environmental design guide for schools.

The Environmental Design in Schools manual has been developed to be a practical guide to engage school communities to make sustainable interventions in the building and operating of their schools.

Education Minister Rob Stokes said the new Environmental Design in Schools guide brings together infrastructure, design and education sectors to discuss the importance of sustainability within schools.

“We have heard from principals and school communities that they are keen to make a difference and this new resource will offer ideas for making sustainable changes in the building or running of their school,” Stokes said.

“Sustainable design is not only great for the environment, but can also improve teaching and learning outcomes and help frame the way that students think about the environment.

“Small changes to a school’s design and operations to make it more environmentally friendly can also drive down maintenance costs, so there’s a benefit to the bottom line too.”

The manual is based on passive design principles which the publications says “can be used to make indoor and outdoor environments more comfortable and sustainable”.

According to the manual key considerations include indoor and outdoor air temperature and quality, humidity, air movement, radiant heat and activity levels.

Passive design strategies include passive heating and cooling, cross-ventilation, thermal mass as well the introduction of natural elements such as indoor plants and landscaped elements which it says “can help concentration by improving air quality in classrooms”.

“Factors such as air quality, ventilation, natural lighting, thermal comfort, and acoustic performance have been shown to have a profound impact on teacher wellbeing and student attentiveness, attendance, and overall performance. There are many things that existing schools can do to maximise these factors through environmentally conscious design,” the manual states.

NSW Acting Government Architect Olivia Hyde said the new guide would continue to underpin existing efforts to encourage good environmental design in new, existing and upgraded schools.

“Simple strategies such as opening windows on both sides of a classroom can improve comfort levels, by encouraging air flow and pushing hotter air outside. Outside we can provide trees to reduce playground temperature and also offer more shaded areas for student play and learning,” Hyde said.

The launch of the new guide follows the NSW government’s $6 billion school building program over the next four years to deliver more than 170 new and upgraded schools to support communities throughout NSW.

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