Flooring for Green Schools

Think about this, we send our children to spend six or more hours a day in facilities that just barely meet health and safety standards. Is this sustainable or even healthy?   Every child deserves to go to a learning environment with conditions that give the child the best opportunity to learn as much as possible with healthy air to breathe and conditions that encourage learning.

Everybody knows that green schools are healthy for kids and conducive to their education but for some reason budgets or politics or both cause us from stopping short of doing the right things for our kids.  The USGBC highlights 4 key items that green schools encourage including daylight and views, indoor air quality, excellent acoustics and thermal comfort.  Many studies have demonstrated direct educational and health benefits from these four areas of focus.  Interestingly enough the flooring choices architects and school districts make have a very large impact on all four of these influencing factors.  By now, most all educators, architects and designers understand that daylight improves performance and attitude of students and teachers alike but very few ever stop to think about what glare does to students and teachers.  While daylight is positive, glare from shiny floors have a negative impact on students performance in classrooms and often cause them stress and inability to pay attention to the material being taught.  So why all the shiny floors full of glare?

Acoustics absolutely play a role on how students learn and we have learned through many studies that too much reverberation in a learning environment causes hearing challenges to students.  Why then do we continue to install hard surface materials in our learning environments when we know they dramatically increase reverberation for our students?  This seems counterproductive yet these flooring types have become the standard for many schools. 

Comfortable indoor temperatures have also been studied and we know that flooring temperature can be critical since our feet are always touching the floor and influencing how we feel.  Yet most schools put down floor surfaces with little or no RValue and no impact on the indoor temperature, the reduction of wasted energy or the increased occupant satisfaction as it relates to temperature.  Is this consistent with what we know to be good and healthy for our students and teachers?

And lastly, we know that good indoor air quality improves health; however, we are completely misguided in our understanding of how flooring impacts IAQ.  Many educators and parents believe that soft surfaces create IAQ and mold issues and recent studies are indicating a different story that must be investigated. In actuality, our school HVAC closets are indicators that dust is circulating all over schools because there is nowhere for it to go and it is never taken out of the school.  Chemicals used to clean and shine hard surface floors are ending up on bookshelves, desk tops and in our children’s lungs and dust from the,”pigpen effect,” is everywhere.  We must re-look at these issues and adapt the flooring for our schools as we move into a more intelligent and sustainable period for our schools.

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