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How to Maximize LEED Credits During a School Redesign

Posted on Feb 27, 2017, by Mike Patrick

LEED credits are used to evaluate the environmental performance of buildings as a way to encourage sustainable building and renovation practices. Sustainability has been a century-long core value at Milliken, so today, we're sharing four interior elements that can be addressed during a renovation to help your school achieve more LEED credits in line with the new LEED v4 standard.

Featured image: Hanford-Dole Elementary, Salisbury, North Carolina, USA.

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1) Flooring

Related LEED credits: Acoustic Performance (1 point); Thermal Comfort (1 point)

When renovating a school, flooring is one of the most important areas to consider as it contributes to multiple LEED credits.

Before you can earn LEED credits for acoustic performance, you must meet their prerequisite. One requirement is incorporating sound-absorbent finishes into the classroom to reduce sound reverberation. Installing cushion-backed carpet absorbs 50% more sound than hardback carpet, which in turn, is three times more effective at absorbing sound than hard flooring.

Additionally, carpet is an excellent insulator, helping to keep classrooms warm in winter and cool during spring and summer. The optimal temperature for learning is between 68° and 74° (Earthman, 2004), and installing carpet instead of hard flooring can help to reduce seasonal temperature fluctuation.

2) Daylighting

Related LEED credit: Daylight (1-3 points)

Access to natural light is essential for student health and wellness, and can help improve productivity and focus during class time. In recognition of the importance of natural light, schools can earn up to three LEED points for increasing levels of daylight in their buildings.

To increase lighting levels within your school, consider installing a daylighting system. This will bring natural light further into the building, even into spaces with no windows.

3) Select Low-Emitting Materials

Related LEED credits: Indoor Air Quality Assessment (1-2 points); Low-Emitting Materials (1-3 points)

The materials used while renovating can have a significant impact on indoor air quality. Poor indoor air quality can lead to a range of health concerns: allergies, nose and throat infections, headaches, and fatigue.

There are seven different categories of materials that are assessed for emissions, including interior paint, flooring and flooring adhesives, and sealants. Therefore, it's essential that you select low-emission paint to minimize the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Additionally, select carpet tiles with adhesive-free installation, such as Milliken's TractionBack technology, to eliminate another potential source of VOCs: flooring adhesives.

Your choice of flooring also contributes to indoor air quality: carpet fibers trap dust and allergen particles, keeping them out of the breathing zone until they are removed by vacuuming. Combined with a well-maintained HVAC system, this can significantly improve indoor air quality.

4) Improve Your Lighting

Related LEED credit: Interior Lighting (1-2 points)

Lighting quality is essential for reducing eye strain and improving focus. If lighting levels are too low, it will sap student energy levels and make it hard for them to read their work. Alternatively, if lighting levels are too high, it increases the risk of glare, which contributes to visual discomfort and can also cause eye strain.

It's vital that classroom lighting aligns with LEED's recommended levels for lighting quality. LEED also emphasises the importance of being able to control lighting levels, so you can adjust classroom lighting depending on whether students are watching a presentation on a projector screen, or doing independent textbook reading.

Levels of natural light aren't taken into account in LEED's Interior Design assessment, which means you can simultaneously earn points for lighting and daylight.

LEED Points Add Up During a Renovation

The threshold for achieving LEED Certification is 40 points, with four certification levels going up to Platinum for 80 points or more.

A carefully-planned renovation project, specifically addressing the requirements for the LEED credits listed above, can provide up to 12 points - achieving 30% of the minimum requirement for LEED Certification with merely a handful of simple design solutions.

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Mike Patrick

Written by Mike Patrick