Ela Green School has been been awarded the LEED Platinum Certification for its building, located at Maraimalai Nagar, on the outskirts of Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The building has received the certification under LEED v4.1 Operations + Maintenance (O+M) earning a score of 86 LEED credit points.
Ela Green School happens to be the first school globally to achieve a LEED platinum rating under v4.1. and sets a high standard for educational institutions. “Earning a LEED Platinum status exemplifies Ela’s commitment to creating a more sustainable and healthier living environment and an active living program for the students,” said Ms. Samhita, Founder, Director of Ela Green School.
‘Ela’ in Sanskrit refers to ‘the earth’. From an abstract idea to an organisation, Ela Green School has been shaped by placing its children’s holistic development as the driving force. Children being highly impressionable with a tendency to mimic behaviour, it is imperative that a school environment is conducive to healthy physical and mental development, productivity, and holistic wellbeing. The school, with its crux as “sowing the seeds of sustainability”, was conceptualised on three layers viz. physical level, operational level, and functional level; to serve as a living inspiration.
The school has taken various initiatives to ensure that the building is operated efficiently through optimal consumption of all forms of resources. At the physical level, the site and the building were developed to the highest standards with LEED as the framework for the design process. This ensured the adoption of green design principles for a lower carbon footprint development based on pre-cast technology with insulated walls.
Getting the design right in the first place resulted in superior operational performance and turn helped the school building achieve the LEED platinum rating. As an ongoing effort from their sustainability policies, Ela Green School is looking to optimize their energy consumption. All HVAC and refrigeration equipment are CFC/Halon free, reducing the impact on the Ozone Layer. The built form, orientation & assisted ventilation system installed in the school not only ensures greater fresh air circulation but also optimizes the energy consumption for the building. Case in point, in the peak summer, the school building had a 9 °C temperature differential between ambient and classroom conditions without any air-conditioning.
In addition to this, the school takes conscious efforts to reduce potable water consumption by providing ultra low-flow tap fixtures & low flush WCs. A great degree of circularity in material flow is also achieved by utilising waste as a resource within the campus. The organic farm within the campus supplies vegetables and herbs to the school cafeteria. Any biodegradable waste from cooking or gardening is composted to serve as manure for the landscaping activities.
LEED emphasizes occupant comfort & well-being which is addressed in Ela Green School by thoughtfully locating and sizing the windows – a simple solution emerging from earnest deliberations and iterations in the early design phase. The appropriate placement and size of these openings ensure sufficient natural ventilation in all the regularly occupied spaces as per ASHRAE 62.1 requirements, whilst also ensuring sufficient daylight without heating the internal space.
The pandemic situation raises several questions on the safety aspects of conducting physical classes. During the design phase in early 2017, the resilience of the school building against the threat of airborne diseases was duly considered and incorporated in the form of excessive ventilation. A higher air exchange rate leads to a lower risk of airborne disease transmission.
To supplement the LEED rating, the school has further gone on to adopt the acclaimed “Arc Re-Entry”, to use it as a tool to monitor KPIs and thereby, reduce and minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in its premises. Arc re-entry validates the building design in the indoor environmental safety aspect and reassures the management of covering all bases to safely reopen. Leveraging this technology, the school management evaluates the effectiveness of policies implemented as per government SOPs and the re-entry framework provided within the rating system. The occupant feedback ensures iterative improvement cycles for a safer indoor environment and thus creates a transparent and confident school re-entry.
The biggest challenge in ensuring smooth operation and efficient performance in any building is to continuously monitor all systems and ensure their functionality and maintenance is done periodically. With the installation of the state-of-the-art Arc platform, building occupants, primarily the students, can now visibly see the building performance. Exposure and sensitivity to sustainable practices incorporated into the campus will inspire the students to adopt a sustainable lifestyle.