Yes, I spelled LEED that way on purpose. LEED stands for Leadership Energy Environmental Design. As I mentioned in another post, I visited HPA’s energy lab that was the first building to pass the Living Building Challenge, a more difficult challenge than LEED. There were a number of different requirements to pass the Living Building Challenge. One of these was that you had to be within 10 meters of a window in all points of the building. Another requirement, which sounds like a huge challenge, was that the builders had to make sure that there was zero water, waste, and energy wasted in the project. Literally everything had to be used to its fullest extent. How do you monitor that? Well, there were 800 sensors taking observations every 5 minutes for a whole year. The last major requirement that I thought was pretty cool was that there could be no material used that was toxic in production, is toxic now, or would become toxic. This means things like PVC were off limits because they become toxic in decomposition. The building is about as green as it gets.
The building itself is a cool story, but what is even cooler is how the kids use it. The green building has carbon dioxide monitors in each room that open a window if the carbon dioxide level gets too high. The students then thought to install carbon dioxide monitors in every classroom because studies have shown that at 1,000 parts per million of carbon dioxide, the brain slows down. Now, the teachers can check the carbon dioxide levels on their phones and open a window in order to help the students learn more efficiently. The teacher giving the tour said that when the carbon dioxide monitors were first put in, the readings were at about 4,000 parts per million (the normal is 400 parts per million). That is 10 times average! Why doesn’t everyone monitor carbon dioxide?!
Overall, the building was a neat idea that has inspired a lot of students over the years. It has become a center for scientific research, and now even the psychology class uses it. It encourages the students to do their own research and work on their own projects, and it gives them the ability to do so in a sustainable environment. A huge thanks to Hawaii Preperatory Academy and Lindsay Barnes for letting me tour the facility!
A link to a study on carbon dioxide levels: http://testtube.com/dnews/how-classrooms-slow-your-brain-down/