By Carla Caldwell
The Lovett School’s colors may be blue and white, but the school is getting a lot of attention for going green.
This summer, the Buckhead private school earned gold-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and won an award from a national group that promotes water conservation in landscape design.
Lovett’s Portman Family Middle School, which opened to students last school year, got word in early August that it has received the LEED certification for its use of sustainable materials, green practices and eco-friendly construction, said Jeff Rountree, director of plant operations at Lovett.
The school applied for the certification when the building was completed, but the evaluation process, administered under standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, can take up to a year to complete, he said.
The LEED green building certification program encourages adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through a rating system that recognizes projects that implement strategies for better environmental and health performance.
The campus’s new baseball and softball fields, which “harvest” water using pipes installed under the fields and two cisterns, earlier this summer received one of two national awards presented annually by the American Society of Irrigation Consultants to recognize innovation in water conservation.
Both projects are testimony to Lovett’s emphasis on green construction and programs, said Rountree.
Middle school Principal Debbie Franks explained that panels atop the school supplement natural-gas water heating throughout the building, and the school’s “living” rooftop serves as an outdoor learning lab and garden for students. Sustainable and recycled materials are used throughout the building, she said. Tiles and partitions in bathrooms are made of recycled material, and floors in the school’s large multipurpose room are made of bamboo.
All students have laptops, which cut down on the need for paper, Franks said, adding that students often submit assignments electronically rather than on paper. The goal is to eventually do away with textbooks, in favor of online texts and books on CD. A couple of teachers are already using online text information, and one class uses a CD book, she said.
“We’ve cut way down on the use of paper,” said Franks. “We have no paper cups, no paper towels. If you spill something, it forces you to use real towels. Our teachers bring their mugs and cups from home. I gave the teachers a month and then said, ‘No more paper cups.’ Everyone here is living a different way. You really do adapt easily.”
An education program developed by Lovett’s middle school teachers that uses the school building as a teaching tool helped earn credit toward the LEED certification.
Each grade level incorporated 10 hours of the instruction, Franks explained. As part of a unit of life science, each seventh-grader built a mini composting bin on the living rooftop. The contents were used in the school’s rooftop garden. Eighth-graders built a mini solar panel to study how the school’s solar panel system works.
Outside the school, the new fields are a model of water conservation. Rainwater that falls onto the fields, and that drains from parking lots and other areas, flows into pipes leading to an underground cistern. Once the cistern is filled, the water is pumped to an aboveground cistern that can hold 56,000 gallons of water.
“This gives us a water supply for all of the turf and surrounding landscape,” said Rountree. “We don’t rely on any city water for those areas.”
Students are proud of the school’s emphasis on green principles, said Franks.
At an assembly on the first day of school, Franks announced to middle school students that their school and ballfields are getting national recognition for helping the environment. “They were all very excited,” said Frank. “This is important to them.”