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FMs As Educators


While the entire school community should be considering ways to engage the building as a teaching tool, facility management staff are especially well-positioned to share a building's lessons.

One way to take on this role is by demonstrating how a building works through special tours or classroom visits. It's important to show students the aspects of the building that normally remain hidden. This can encourage curiosity about what is on the roof or in "that pipe over there." In some cases, this type of hands-on teaching will provoke an educational interest or provide new clarity. For example, many learners of all ages struggle with math and science when it is explained in an abstract manner, but these subjects can come to life when presented through a real-world example.

While regularly reviewing building performance data may seem mundane, sharing performance-related patterns with the school community can be very influential. A static LEED screen will rarely command the same attention as a real-time web-based display, which links building performance to weather, building activity, and comfort. This information may inspire larger conversations among the school community about their own awareness of energy use, recycling policy, or climate change.

Students could be challenged to connect their behaviors with environmental impacts, such as reduction in energy use. If a building is submetered to provide classroom-specific performance data, there could be a competition to see which class can minimize its energy use the most. It can also be helpful to translate these impacts into relatable results, such as equating how that energy savings had the same effect as planting 1,000 trees.

While technology can build excitement and interest in sustainability, it is worth remembering that the best lessons are often taught with small actions through the demonstration of daily building stewardship. A well-cared-for building is one that will endure. In many ways, a building that lasts is the most sustainable kind of building, regardless of its other green features. The embodied energy and social capital of a well-maintained facility are no small assets. Stated more simply, caring for a building communicates that the institution cares for things that matter.

This is an excerpt from a larger article by Julie Nelson, partner at KKSK Architects. To read the original article and learn more about how facility managers are incorporating parts of their facilities into student's education, go here.

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