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Education Market Embraces the Green Building Movement

Feb 20, 2008 12:00 PM, By Linda Seid Frembes

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Waveguide Consulting of Atlanta designed the Math and Science Center of Emory University to be LEED-compliant

Waveguide Consulting of Atlanta designed the Math and Science Center of Emory University to be LEED-compliant.

These days, discussion of green AV and green buildings are gaining recognition and media coverage in the AV industry. But ask Scott Walker, president and CEO of Waveguide Consulting in Atlanta, if the green building movement exists in the education market, and he will tell you: “Schools were the first to adopt sustainability and the LEED rating system when it first came out. One of our clients is Emory University, a pioneer in the green building movement among higher-education facilities. Emory adopted a 100-percent green building policy on new construction buildings.”

LEED is an acronym for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a rating system administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED ratings exist for a wide variety of structure—including new construction, existing buildings, schools, retail, healthcare, and even homes. Points are awarded based on certain performance criteria as it relates to sustainability and environmental stewardship.

“Schools plan for 50-year, and sometimes 100-year, buildings so they are viewed as a long-term investment. Project any costs over that period of time, and you can see the need to save on operational costs,” Walker says. “Universities are pushing green buildings to the next level, as in carbon-neutral status. Universities make the investment in green buildings and green technology because their primary focus is not a simple financial bottom line. Their mission is to educate, to promote research, and to be good community partners.”

Recently, the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment launched an effort to address global warming using institutional commitments. According to the website, the Commitment aims to neutralize greenhouse-gas emissions and to accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the Earth’s climate.

So far, almost 500 higher-education institutions have committed to the program, which includes action items such as establishing a policy that new construction on campus to be built will meet LEED Silver standard or equivalent and adopting an energy-efficient appliance purchasing policy requiring purchase of Energy Star-certified products.

As the world’s first LEED-accredited Certified Technology Specialist in Design (CTS-D), Walker's personal mission is also to take green AV and green building techniques to the next level. “I want to encourage the application of AV and green building techniques,” says Walker, a frequent contributor to the Green AV blog on InfoComm International’s website. “I also want to help steer the USGBC to appreciate AV and recognize it in their LEED ratings.”

Walker says that the current race to get AV equipment in every classroom is a conundrum that looks more like an opportunity. “Our obligation is to offset that increased energy usage somehow. Can we push AV manufacturers to make their products Energy Star-compliant and only specify ones that are compliant? Can we design AV systems that are on only when the room is occupied, using room-automation or control-system software? We have the tools, but we need to put it all together into a useful solution,” he says. “Systems integrators, consultants, and manufacturers can do their part by selling the return on investment to clients. Green can be a friendly selling point because even single-digit gains in energy efficiency with an AV solution equal a long-term savings.”

Energy efficiency and eco-friendly techniques are not just for new construction. Older school buildings with AV systems can take advantage of swapping out equipment for newer, Energy Star-compliant equipment. Companies such as screen and window-covering manufacturer Draper has introduced a screen-recycling program as part of its green initiative.

Draper’s website offers tips on how and where to recycle equipment such as projection screens, projector mounts and projector lifts, or gym equipment—all of which are largely recyclable. Currently, Draper does not encourage customers to return-ship their old products because, according to the website, “shipping projection screens and other products back to a central point for recycling is costly and adds a carbon load to the process. You can make much more earth-friendly choices by working with your local resources.”

“In three to five years, we may forget that we built buildings any other way [than green],” says Walker, who also states that approximately 80 percent of Waveguide’s new construction projects in the past two years have been green buildings.

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