Many American schools are aging. Nearly 50% of U.S. schools date back to between 1950 and 1969. It’s not surprising that these buildings aren’t sustainable. The eco-friendly goals many people advocate for today weren’t exactly a priority those many years ago.

Renovating these buildings from top to bottom can be a significant investment. That’s why administrators choose to retrofit their schools. This tactic reduces costs and energy while still providing the intended results.

Here’s a look at strategies for retrofitting school buildings for sustainability.


1. Water Efficiency

There’s no denying that water efficiency must be a goal. The average elementary school uses 18 liters per student daily, so builders should analyze options to cut back. Luckily, it’s possible to manage this consumption with various tools.

A school that uses a water cooling tower can install electronic systems to provide insight. That addition will help administrators track water usage—and, in turn, create better habits. Plus, it’s smart for builders to retrofit bathrooms themselves. Various options like electric hand dryers are simple, yet make a significant difference.


2. Air Quality

The average student spends around eight hours indoors daily, so air quality matters. Project stakeholders need to consider this point as they retrofit school buildings. There are a few ways to ensure students have a safe learning environment.

An air quality monitoring system can be a crucial tool. This data will help ensure there aren’t any issues—and when they do pop up, it’s going to be much simpler to pinpoint what’s wrong. It’s also possible to upgrade rooftop units with controls and sensors. These additions can help promote better air quality and more eco-friendly utilities.


3. Energy Conservation

Green building is not a new concept for builders and contractors. This strategy means different things, according to various developers. However, energy conservation is crucial to meeting sustainability goals—project stakeholders can make smaller shifts, like energy-efficient windows and LED lighting, or embrace major retrofits like installing solar panels to power schools.

A trend growing in popularity, especially for schools that value community spaces, is installing a green roof to reduce energy demand. This strategy involves building a rooftop garden with plants and flowers. That vegetation will eradicate the heat island effect many urban buildings create. Then, it’s more manageable for schools to reserve their energy.


4. Maintenance Management

What’s the best way to promote long-term sustainability? Maintenance. A green school building must prioritize monitoring to ensure everything works as intended. The cost to repair or replace something that breaks will be expensive, both financially and environmentally.

Therefore, it’s smart for schools to invest in maintenance optimization. If they retrofit their systems to show continuous operational statuses, they can avoid potential issues rather than deal with any surprises. That technology will be necessary to help them remain sustainable and manage budgets that rely on local and state oversight.


5. Community Engagement

Administrators need to raise awareness for a sustainable project before starting. That same knowledge should remain public after contractors have completed the retrofitting project. If a school keeps its local community informed about everything they intend to do, they’ll see powerful results.

Parents, students and faculty ultimately benefit from what happens. If they become engaged throughout the process, they can offer crucial support. These stakeholders can even provide suggestions for potential projects. There’s no telling how valuable a public forum can be when moving toward sustainability.

How can buildings keep the public updated? An example would involve adding a display in a public space that highlights how much water the school has saved since installing low-flush toilets. This information should help the community grasp the project’s value.

There’s always a need to be transparent—especially when dealing with public buildings like schools. The Green Schools Alliance notes that being sustainable involves various people who want to champion a green cause. That includes all community members.


School Administrators Can Pursue Many Solutions

The prospect of a sustainable school might seem tricky. Where do administrators start when there are various factors to consider? If a school can focus on specific categories like water efficiency and air quality, it’ll be much easier to complete green retrofitting projects. These strategies are an excellent starting point for schools that want to upgrade their existing buildings.