Green Starts Early in Brazoria – Part One

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When the West Brazos Junior High School opened its doors in the Fall of 2006, it became the first operational public junior high school in the state to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification.  Assistant Superintendent of the Columbia Brazoria Independent School District, Martha Buckner, stated the district’s goals;  “Our goal was to demonstrate that green schools were achievable without spending extra money during the process.  The key was smarter choices, not more money.”Real estate developers, construction companies and architects have come to realize that too many projects shy away from sustainable construction due to cost concerns.  The West Brazos Junior High success should serve as a foundation for other Texas school systems that not only is green construction environmentally and socially responsible, but green construction is an economically viable alternative to traditional building practices.Anyone familiar with today’s construction costs will be impressed by the $109 per square foot price tag on the 91,500 square foot junior high.  The total construction costs was $9,931,000 and fell well under budget.  As Ms. Buckner suggests, the effort reflects a series of responsible green decisions.Designed by the architectural firm of SHW Group, Inc. and constructed by Tellespan, the school sits on a 53 acre parcel, which is now landscaped with vegetation that has been selected to exist passively in the region’s coastal environment.  Irrigation needs are minimal and combine with low-flow toilets and faucets to drastically reduce the water requirement to 31% below local code.As the project’s conceptual plan was discussed, a team of green coordinators was formed to contribute to the school’s development.  The team set about selecting green construction materials.  Selections were based upon durability considerations, a look at the material’s history for low maintenance and cost measured with esthetic value.More than 55% of all building materials selected by the team were manufactured within 500 miles of the site.  Through serious recycling efforts, 56% of all waste was diverted from the landfill.  Brazos Junior High School’s exterior primarily consists of concrete masonry including stucco and metal panels.The school is attended by more than 3,000 students inn grades seven and eight.  When green construction becomes a way of life for our youth, the green momentum will continue to surge.

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