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Energy Positive Schools: Defining the Community Impact of Zero Energy Schools

In several states across the country, school districts are realizing the benefits of zero energy schools and their impact on the surrounding communities. One of the biggest potential benefits of building zero energy/energy positive schools is that it can inspire communities to not only be more aware of energy output but it gives the community something to get excited about. When analyzing other energy positive schools across the nation, we consistently find that the main reasons behind the construction of these schools is to help with minimizing climate change and to create an engaged student body that can be a part of the solution. The more students are engaged, the more they are excited to learn and attend school.

By definition, a zero-energy building is one that generates more energy than it consumes. An energy positive building is a building that generates more electricity than it consumes, often with the goal of eliminating electrical cost. The U.S. Department of Energy states that energy consumption is the second highest operational expense to schools, with faculty salaries being the first. A significant number of tax dollars go towards utility expenses which means less dollars are being used towards other educational resources for faculty and students.

According to the article ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, “growing student populations, rising community expectations, aging buildings, constrained operation budgets, and increasing energy bills are major challenges schools face,” (Driving Market Adaption of Zero Energy Schools). In building energy positive schools, school districts can channel cost savings from utility expenses into students, faculty, and curriculums, providing tools and resources needed for the school to thrive, thus helping the community to thrive. Investing in energy positive schools, according to the Energy Department, “can become prominent community landmarks that educate a new generation of students with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills critical to our nation’s future.”

For most neighborhoods, building an energy positive school has the potential to the change the community for the better. Most families will pick a community on the strength of its schools. Having a more advanced curriculum housed in a school where students get excited to attend is good for everyone that is involved. Happier students lead to better grades and increased overall success which generally attracts more talented students, excellent teachers and more.


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