Students help study green classroom

Davis Magnet School emphasizes environmentalism with Eco-Education Nights, "Waste-Free Wednesdays" and an ecology center.

Now it's been chosen for a green-classroom experiment.

The Orange County U.S. Green Building Council selected the Costa Mesa K-6 campus to receive a free "greenovation" of one of its classrooms in order to collect data on the financial impact of going green.

The council hopes to reaffirm anecdotal evidence that an environmentally friendly classroom is healthier and cost-effective.

"At the U.S. Green Building Council, our vision is to see all students in this generation in a green school," said Wendy Rogers, chairwoman of the council's Green Schools Committee.

At Davis, Rooms 7 and 8, were chosen for the experiment. Room 8 was slated as the control room and kept the same. Room 7 was updated with recycled carpet, paint and tiles that release lower levels of volatile organic compounds; lighting with dimmers; ceiling-like portholes, or "Solatubes," that let the sunlight in; and an energy-efficient HVAC system.

Room 7 teacher Kelly Lopez is still figuring out the lighting options, but has already taught one morning with the lights off and the Solatubes open.

Irvine-based school design firm LPA Inc., the Walt Disney Co., McCarthy Building Cos. and Sunbelt Controls donated the work and materials. A similar renovation would cost $130,000 to $175,000.

The air and heating system is the element that has the biggest impact on the classroom occupants' health, said Rogers, a design principal at LPA Inc.

A displacement ventilation system that distributes air in the room's four corners at ground level, allowing warmer air to be used and forcing bacteria and germs up.

The system is also silent and doesn't leave the students in the middle of the room stuck freezing all day under the ventilation pipe, Lopez said.

Over the school year, the council, with the aid of the students, will collect data on electricity use, room temperature, carbon dioxide levels and relative humidity, but also the benefits of sunlight and the overall happiness of students, Rogers said.

The council wants to use the information to show school districts that going green makes financial sense, even in difficult financial times, she said.

Lopez and her students moved into the classroom last week.

"It's great — the kids love it," she said. "The Solatubes are their favorite."

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

If You Go

What: Unveiling of Davis Magnet School's green retrofitted classroom for Green Apple Day of Service

When: 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday

Where: Davis Magnet School, 1050 Arlington Drive, Costa Mesa

Cost: Free

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