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Module 1: Introduction to Sustainability and Building Design

Innovation and Design
9, 10, 11, 12
Essential questions
What is systems thinking and why is it useful?
What can we learn from systems in nature to create sustainable human structures?
How does carbon move through the global carbon cycle?
How does the carbon cycle relate to greenhouse gases and global climate change?
What can I do to reduce my personal carbon footprint?

LESSON 1.1: Eco-‘Systems’
(Estimated time needed: Four 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students explore systems thinking and why it is useful. They consider a variety of systems in the world around them and discuss how systems often intersect and interrelate. Then they examine an ecosystem as a basic unit of nature that includes a variety of subsystems: a community of living organisms; nonliving structures; and biological, chemical, and physical processes. Next, students work in groups to create a lesson they can share with their peers about one specific natural system and how it sustains itself over time. Finally, students consider how what they’ve learned about sustainable natural systems might be applied to the development of human structures. This first module serves as a foundation for understanding key green building principles and LEED Green Associate Exam materials covered in future modules.

LESSON 1.4: Prioritizing High-Performance Solutions
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions)
This lesson gives students an opportunity to pull together the concepts they learned in Lessons 1.1–1.3. They work together to define sustainability and then begin analyzing how a variety of actions fall on a sustainable to unsustainable spectrum. They learn the concept of the “triple bottom line,” which considers the environment, society, and the economy. Next, students get an introduction to USGBC’s LEED Impact Categories and Credit Categories. They divide into teams, with each team investigating one of the six primary LEED Credit Categories and how applying this category to a building could make it more sustainable. Then groups share their findings with the class and discuss how green building can benefit the triple bottom line.

LESSON 1.6: Integrative Process
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students learn that in addition to systems thinking and life-cycle analysis, another important aspect of successful green building projects is an integrative process. This strategy prioritizes connections and communication among professionals and stakeholders throughout the entire life cycle of a project. The idea is that the more the people on the team understand the perspectives of the other people on the team, the better the project will be. Then students work as team members, experts, and stakeholders to evaluate a neighborhood plan and propose changes to make the plan more sustainable. This foundational knowledge helps prepare students for the LEED Green Associate Exam, Integrative Strategies Knowledge Domain.

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