Minnesota Students to Help School Earn LEED

APPLE VALLEY, Minn. — A group of junior and senior high school students at the School of Environmental Studies (SES) in Apple Valley are creating a plan to help their school earn LEED certification. If achieved, this would be the first student-led, LEED-certified project under LEED v4.

The SES is a public high school located on the grounds of the Minnesota Zoo, and is part of Independent School District 196. A magnet school, SES uses a project-based learning model that encourages students to define their own learning objectives. Its mission is to create a community of leaders that will enhance the relationship between humans and their environment.

With this mission in mind, the student group has a goal of obtaining certification for the building under the LEED EB: O+M for Schools v4 rating system. The certification process is expected to take two years, achieving certification when this year’s junior class graduates. The project is also serving as a national LEED Lab Pilot to help drive curriculums for K-12 students relating to LEED certification, environmental education and experiential learning.

To move forward with the LEED-certification goal, SES students contacted Sheri Brezinka, the executive director of the USGBC Minnesota Chapter (USGBC-MN). In partnership with Sebesta, a locally based engineering firm with past experience in obtaining LEED certifications for its clients, the USGBC-MN will offer professional assistance and expertise for the students to achieve their goal.

“Sebesta’s expertise in LEED facilitation has been critical to this project moving forward,” Brezinka said in a statement.

Other community partners including Trane, a subsidiary of Davidson, N.C.-based Ingersoll Rand, Wold Architects and Engineers of St. Paul, Minn., Dakota Electric of Farmington, Minn., Noble Conservation Solutions of Plymouth, Minn. and Greengrade of West Des Moines, Iowa also joined the effort.

The students encouraged participation from their peers and faculty as well, which resulted in a course dedicated to the project. The current students are even planning on how they will hand off the project to future students that will need to help see the multi-year project to completion. Students will participate in fundraising efforts to harness funding for any additional costs associated with their LEED goal, such as submitting final certification documentation.

The first project meeting was held in October. While Sebesta is assisting with the certification project, Corinne Wichser, LEED AP BD+C, O+M, a sustainability specialist with Sebesta, said that the students will run the project and Sebesta will only help facilitate and offer advice. She added that there is no guarantee that the school will receive certification.