Study explores green building literacy for K-12 students

Published on: 
14 Aug 2019
Jenny Wiedower

Advancing our work as green building professionals often means educating colleagues, clients and end users. We share our knowledge about the design, construction and operation of green buildings, and many designers of schools have ambitions to employ their buildings as teaching tools for sustainability.

Defining green building literacy

It's not always easy to define exactly what we hope to teach. To go beyond signage at school recycling bins, we need a more standard definition of “green building literacy” to both define and expand our ideas about the potential for school buildings as teaching tools.

To fill this gap, a recent study by Laura B. Cole in the International Journal of STEM Education offers a preliminary set of frameworks for green building literacy (GBL) to support both designers and educators seeking to promote green building education among K–12 students.

Including all facets of knowledge

Building on decades of research in the area of environmental education, GBL refers to knowledge, attitudes and behaviors that pertain to green building design. In this work, green building knowledge covers several areas:

  • Factual knowledge (green building terminology)
  • Conceptual knowledge (a deeper understanding of the many ecological and social systems that intersect in green building design)
  • Procedural knowledge (the skills needed to take part in the green building movement and green behaviors within buildings)

Using a variety of green building standards, the report presents 14 green building knowledge categories (e.g., energy, water, life cycle, social justice) that can provide the basis for educational programming.

The question of how to use green buildings as teaching tools remains an exciting, open-ended question. The frameworks in this study could provide a foundation for promoting green building literacy through K–12 STEM education, and the educational tools developed through this process offer an option for teachers to use as a starting point for lesson planning.

Read the report