USGBC Minnesota: High school students learn leadership through LEED | U.S. Green Building Council
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Published on
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Posted in Community

The School of Environmental Studies (SES) is not your average high school. This optional high school, located in Apple Valley, Minn., promotes a project-based learning approach with environmental themes. It is only fitting that a group of juniors and seniors at SES decided they wanted to take on the challenge of gaining LEED certification for their school.

Their goal is to obtain certification of the building under the LEED v4 for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance for Schools rating system, which would also make it the first student-led LEED-certified school under LEED v4. The project also serves as a national LEED Lab Pilot that is helping to help drive curriculum for K–12 students relating to LEED certification, environmental education and experiential learning.

Although students are leading the project, they are not alone in this task. USGBC Minnesota community members have volunteered to help the students in their pursuit for LEED v4 certification. The company Trane volunteered to perform the energy audit and even went a step further by including the students in that process in a meaningful way. Jeff Seewald, Senior Engineer at Trane, educates the students on a variety of topics, including HVAC systems, technology, renewables, benchmarking and how they relate to the LEED Energy and Atmosphere credits. Seewald does a great job of explaining energy-related topics in a way that is interesting and understandable for the students. He also facilitates hands-on learning activities such as a tour of the school's facilities to learn about HVAC equipment. Seewald demonstrates that smart operation of this equipment can lower costs as well as CO2 emissions.

Along with receiving LEED certification, the students plan to use the information gained from the energy audit and Seewald’s teaching to promote sustainability within their school and district. They hope to relay their findings to decision makers within their school district, including faculty, staff, facilities managers and school board members, making the case for continuing efficiency.

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