MEDIA RELEASE & AUDIO TRANSCRIPT OF RADIO SHOW
Webb & Robinson, guests on KPFT 90.1 FM Monarch Minutes episode discussing Texas’ greenest K-12 school
HOUSTON, Texas--March 24, 2011--Energy & sustainability advisor Mark Robinson joined Dr. Marty Webb, The Monarch School’s Founder & Head of School to share with KPFT 90.1 FM listeners the against all odds story of how The Monarch School became Texas’ healthiest, most sustainable K-12 school.
Webb & Robinson hope this 30-minute episode inspires Texas’ other 10,000+ K-12 schools to save on energy alone ($160 million per year), thousands of teachers’ jobs, & a generation of Texas’ students.
LINK TO AUDIO VERSION OF RADIO SHOW
Total Duration: 24 Minutes
John Barone: Good morning everyone! My name is John Barone and you are listening to Monarch Minutes, brought to you by The Monarch School, dedicated to providing an innovative, therapeutic education, for individuals with neurological differences.
Joining me in the studio is the Founder and Head of the Monarch School, Dr. Marty Webb. How are you today, Marty?
Dr. Marty Webb: Fabulous! And I would rather be nowhere else on the planet but right here.
John Barone: Wonderful! Also with us is Mark Alan Robinson, our school’s Green Energy, Green Building, and Green Business Advisor. Mark is the Founding Partner of Momentum Bay Associates and its division GREEN POWER 4 TEXAS. Welcome to Monarch Minutes, Mark!
Mark Alan Robinson: Good morning John.
John Barone: Today we are celebrating Monarch’s receiving multiple green building certifications for its new Chrysalis building. The first two certifications were for exemplary design and included the EPA’s “Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR®” and the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED® Gold certifications.
And just last week the school applied for its first award for outstanding operations of an existing building, the EPA’s ENERGY STAR label. Together these three real estate awards make Monarch’s Chrysalis Texas healthiest, most sustainable, K-12 school among 10,000 schools.
Dr. Marty Webb: Yea.
John Barone: Incredible! Mark, can you share with our audience what it means to receive LEED Gold certification for a building?
Mark Alan Robinson: LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. It was created about 12 or 13 yeas ago by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit. And it’s really all about best practices when it comes to real estate, whether it’s a new building or an existing building.
So there are four levels; Certified, Silver, Gold, Platinum. We happened to achieve Gold.
John Barone: Okay. Great! And Marty, tell us about this beautiful new building; how did an ambitious project like the new Monarch School happen?
Dr. Marty Webb: Well, John, it actually had very modest beginnings. We actually started our school in 1997 in my garage, where we planned and developed the program for a year. And then we moved into three used portable buildings on leased grounds of a church.
We outgrew that space and needed a second campus and we took three office suites in a business park about five blocks away, and that managed us for about seven or eight years as we developed the program.
Then we lost our ground lease and it was a pretty tough time for us, we had no money to buy property. And a generous donor stepped forward and offered us 11 acres in Spring Branch. So we started raising funds to build in 2006, and then we were able to move into this new building in August 2009.
It’s one of three buildings and five freestanding studios that will be the complete campus eventually. And we are currently raising funds from individuals and foundations who really appreciate the importance of investing in the long-term future of a therapeutic day school for Houston.
It’s so important that we have excellent therapeutic services for children with neurological differences, particularly children with autism, and about 65% of our students have autism and we are devising new and innovative therapies and strategies and interventions to really help those kids get a chance to experience real joy in relationships and make a contribution to the world.
John Barone: Great! Did you plan from the beginning to apply for LEED certification?
Dr. Marty Webb: You know, we always wanted LEED certification but originally we were told that it would cost 10-15% more, and it was totally out of the question, we were really pinching pennies, as we have in almost every part of the Monarch program from the beginning and till today. So we were actually more than halfway through the construction design process with our architects when we met Mark and we learned that those percentages were way out of date and that at the time the costs were estimated to be just 2-5% more.
John Barone: Oh, that’s great!
Dr. Marty Webb: Yeah. And in fact, at the end of the day pursuing LEED certification added very little additional cost to our project and we will see a quick return on it financially, but just the health and environmental education benefits are priceless opportunities that never go away.
Mark Alan Robinson: I would even add that some of the things we did brought in money. We got a $2,300 check from CenterPoint Energy because we proved the school was designed to be so efficient, besides all the energy savings.
John Barone: What are some other benefits of a school being LEED certified?
Dr. Marty Webb: It places us in a category with other environmentally responsible projects around the country. A LEED school is third party verified, so parents know what their child would go to school in.
John Barone: What does that mean, third party verified?
Dr. Marty Webb: Well, you are not just saying that you built according to particular standards, the contractor is not just saying that you did it, there is a third party who is checking every aspect of the whole building process.
John Barone: Okay. Kind of like teachers giving students grades.
Dr. Marty Webb: Yeah.
John Barone: So what grade would Monarch get do you think?
Dr. Marty Webb: An A++. So studies show that students’ productivity and performance increases more than 20% in a LEED building and we have seen that. People feel better in a LEED school. Teachers want to work in a LEED school. And it’s just vibrantly different; you can measure it, you can verify it.
More important, it’s fundamental to our identity and to our unique program. We practice "No Child Left Inside" and this new facility represents visually and physically and operationally the Monarch School’s core values and focus on sustainability.
And it also provides hands-on experiences for students, for parents, faculty, volunteers, to really participate in great environmental education projects.
We are on what used to be soccer fields, so we have the opportunity to reforest this land and to green a pretty barren 11 acres, trails and gardens and ponds and hundreds of student-based projects for our Environmental Science Program for years.
John Barone: How did the students react, like coming from the other property where they were housed in temporary buildings into this wonderful new healthy building, how did they respond?
Dr. Marty Webb: We noticed the very first day the calming effect, through the use of colors, through the use of natural lighting, through all indirect artificial light. So no toxic smells.
The fact that the design of the building is integrated with the surrounding landscape, so there is a connection with the outdoors even when you are indoors. The students are proud of their school, they want to keep it healthy, they want to keep it efficient, they are so energy conscious. Every single student is participating in our energy conservation. They are turning off lights and they are unplugging equipment and they are raising and lowering shades at particular times during the day. They wipe their feet before they enter.
They are just leaders in environmental projects. They will, for instance, lead the tours that we take our visitors on when we host the Mayor’s Green Building Tour on April 15 from 11-2. They love pointing out the LEED features.
The students were the ones who placed the icons around the building that illustrate our LEED points that we earned. They hand water new trees that we have planted. They are recycling, even the youngest students are dedicated recyclers.
John Barone: That’s awesome! You are listening to KPFT 90.1. It’s 9:38. I am John Barone, and you are listening to Monarch Minutes. Our guests are Dr. Marty Webb and Mark Robinson and we are discussing the dedication of the Monarch School to building and living green.
Mark, what are some of Monarch’s green best practices that Texas’ other 10,000 plus K-12 schools could implement affordably and practically and significantly?
Mark Alan Robinson: I guess there are two approaches. If you are already in an existing building, which is probably 98.5% of all the schools, only 1.5% get built new every year, you have got some limited options, but they are easy. They are good old fashion values, conservation.
The school and the students and the staff have actually reduced year over year electricity usage 58% some months, and that’s just simple free strategies.
Daylight they mentioned, make sure your kids can see the outdoors, because yeah, 2-20% productivity increases. What if you could be 20% more productive?
Capturing the rainwater may take a little bit extra, but there’s a rapid payback.
Solar is quickly becoming an option and within the next five years it will be less expensive to make it yourself and buy it from the grid.
The school dipped its toe in the water first with 100% green power and it’s maybe 1% premium for your electricity bill, and you’re instantly -- air quality -- you are helping your quality and you are getting rid of all the emissions associated with the electricity you use. That’s easy.
They have 90% of their spaces able to see the outdoors. 85% of their construction waste was diverted from landfills. Now, that’s investing in kids’ future.
Several other things we can talk about, but those are probably the main ones; think basics, think 1920s, good old fashion conservation, efficiency. It’s not that hard.
The bad news, there’s only one school this year has applied for a label, 1,900 last year did. So our application will be number two. In a down economy when something is free or easy, go after it, prove to the world that you really deserve to take care of these kids and we have to and it makes money.
John Barone: Let’s talk about that kind of green. Let’s talk about money, because with budgets cuts, Texas needs to find about $27 billion. Can teachers and kids save millions of jobs and billions of dollars with these efforts?
Mark Alan Robinson: I know it sounds like pie in the sky, but our simple efforts save about $16,000-17,000 per year in just energy, times the 90-year lease I have on the land, that really starts to add up, almost two million dollars. Our building only cost four or five million dollars of our size. So you have got half a building for free.
Now, if we did that times 10,000 schools in Texas, that’s $160 million every year.
John Barone: Wow!
Mark Alan Robinson: Now, if you did that times the 100 plus thousand schools in the country, you are really starting to -- and this times 20 years in Texas, that would be $3.2 billion, it adds up.
And that’s just energy. Now, that’s only 0.7% of the story; there is so much more. You just dip your toe in the water, have some fun, make some money, and then you would be surprised what other ways come about turning the kids more productive.
I mean, think about 80-90% of a building or businesses costs are people, students, staff. What if I didn’t have to hire an extra teacher for every five, because those teachers are 20% more productive and happy and they stay there, they don’t leave. You don’t have to recruit a new one.
Now, that’s value to the bottom line instantly, for fundraising for the school. I mean, what a placard you would want to wear and show, we really do make a lot of money and we are efficient. This is the best kind of nonprofit you want to give to, one that really helps kids and uses resources well. It’s not just about the planet; it’s about money, it’s about people, it’s about the planet. To some degree, for me, it’s even about faith; this makes sense.
John Barone: Now, how do we get this message out to Texas?
Mark Alan Robinson: Well, I would say start by -- you can come over and take the tour. We give tours every week. The easier thing to do would be just check out howtogreenschools.com and the letter is T-O, HowToGreenSchools.com.
John Barone: Say that again. How to --
Mark Alan Robinson: HowToGreenSchools.com. There is the media release that we did. There is the link to the nine-minute YouTube video featuring James Baker, a bunch of vendors, architects. And it gives little snippets of all the perspectives; teachers, kids, everybody, why this was easy to do. Actually it was a little hard at the beginning, but just the value we got out of it, the millions of dollars of payback. Watch the video, I won’t steal the thunder.
But definitely come take the tour. When you look kids in the eyes and the teachers and you see the change in the lives and the hearts of the parents, and for kids with neurological differences, this can really be a life changing and a life disrupting and even a marriage breaking challenge, and this is where you start to tear up. This is where you realize, is it worth 1% to do sustainable real estate, sustainable business, or even just green power? Is air quality in Houston worth it? Do I love my neighbor?
I mean, if one out of ten days in Houston we are not supposed to go outside and breathe, and our air quality is getting better, but we are still not there. If all it takes is 1% effort, I mean, wow, it’s that easy to change the world, save the lives, and make a difference.
John Barone: Absolutely! And we will be right back after this station break.
Announcer: You are listening to Pacifica Radio KPFT Houston. The time is coming up on 9:45. Here is a quick look at traffic and weather. There are no accidents to report currently. There is slow traffic onto 610 West Loop Southbound from I-10 to West Hymer. Slow traffic also on 288 Northbound from the 610 South Loop to MacGregor and also on the 610 South Loop Westbound from Broadway to South Wayside. The current temperature is 71 degrees with scattered clouds. Humidity is 48%. Today will be mostly cloudy in the morning, then becoming partly cloudy in the afternoon. Today’s high will be around 81 degrees and low 61 degrees. Air quality is in the good range.
And now back to Community Spotlight. Today’s program is Monarch Minutes with John Barone.
John Barone: Marty, what would you like other school leaders to know about building green?
Dr. Marty Webb: I am reminded of a conversation I heard Bill White have a few years ago, and he said that there should never be another school built that is not LEED rated. He mentioned that we have more prisons that are LEED rated than schools. That’s really tragic.
So I would love other school leaders to know that whenever you can you should advocate for LEED building, for new buildings or for existing buildings, and that ENERGY STAR, we ought to be going after ENERGY STAR, we ought to be setting that example. It’s free and it’s teaching kids about what they can do to be good stewards of the planet.
And if you are administering an already built school, there is so much you can do that contributes to environmental stewardship, and it’s all about choices. It’s about what vehicles you choose to purchase for your school. It’s about the plants that you purchase that are sustainable plants. It’s about preferred parking for low emitting vehicles, having bike racks, choosing renewable energy. As Mark says, it’s so easy just to be choosing to purchase renewable energy, to watch your conservation. We are saving 41% of our water through low-flow fixtures. That’s easy.
There are so many things we can do with the opportunity that we have to influence children and parents and families in our community to be good models, to be good stewards, to provide opportunities for hands-on experiences where people get to find out themselves what they can do.
It’s not you doing it as a principal or a superintendent, it’s what can you empower other people to do so that they can own it, they can take responsibility for it. They can really feel good about I have done something to make a difference in this world.
John Barone: And how are The Monarch School students owning it?
Dr. Marty Webb: Oh wow! It’s so fun, because one of the things that I didn’t know, there are so many things I didn’t know as we got ready to build and as we went through the process and then after we moved in, I thought if you had an energy efficient building that was it. Wow, what a surprise to find out, no, it’s how you operate that energy efficient building.
Mark Alan Robinson: That is so right. It’s all about the people.
Dr. Marty Webb: And we have had so much fun working with the engineers who designed the building, because we keep calling them back and saying, help us figure out how to make it more efficient. What could we do that’s better? It’s got all this wonderful computer control of the energy system, but we don’t really know how to operate it.
Apparently, we have been an anomaly. People don’t call them back and say, now let us come in -- now that it’s built and see what you are doing.
Mark Alan Robinson: Shall we tell them what our scores were?
Dr. Marty Webb: Yes.
Mark Alan Robinson: Well, we were designed to be an 86 out of 100. A year after moving we were only 44 out of 100. So we were below the nation’s 50 or average. And after a year of conservation, really tweaking the building and the people, we are back to an 84 as of last month, and I bet we will surpass 86 easily soon.
Dr. Marty Webb: And that’s not just the adults, that’s not just our building manager sitting at his computer, making sure how the air flow is going, it’s about every single person in the school taking responsibility for being part of making those energy choices everyday.
The kids had a wonderful experiment where they looked to see what the ratings were and the energy use of our computers. We had some pretty old computers. So as we had the opportunity to receive a donation for some new energy efficient computers, they knew exactly how much energy every one of those new computers was going to save over the old ones.
John Barone: Mark, what inspired you to become a green energy, green building, and green business consultant?
Mark Alan Robinson: I would say three people or maybe even four groups of people, my heroes, basically. My grandpa, he had three heart attacks at 55, 62, and 79; he finally died of one. But at 62 he went full out green; I mean organic food, growing it in the garden, bee pollen, and he is my hero.
My mom, another hero; she had migraine headaches from the MSG in food and from an assortment of things, but we really introduced a healthy diet early on in life.
And then God, I mean he is a tree hugger. Well, that one is easy.
The kids too, clients. When you look at kids, when you look at your neighbor, next time you shake someone’s hand, I can’t love you if I don’t do this stuff. I mean, that’s where really -- it has to be about relationships. This is not about being smart or strong or rich. This is about being kind, doing the right thing, and just staying in right relationship, and that’s what makes you happy.
If you follow that, there’s no way to go wrong here. This will make money. I am a business guy; I have got an MBA. I mean, that’s what this is about. It makes money, that’s the good news. The extra good news is that you get all these other benefits. You help people. You help the planet.
John Barone: That’s wonderful! It’s 9:50 on KPFT 90.1. I am John Barone and this is Monarch Minutes. Our guests are Dr. Marty Webb and Mark Robinson and we are discussing the importance of building healthier, more sustainable buildings.
Mark, are there other case studies or stories you have seen that are like Monarch’s against all odd story?
Mark Alan Robinson: Well, let’s turn away from the nonprofit and the school world back to the business world, not that schools aren’t real businesses, but Green Bank is a bank here in town. I was privileged to advise the leaders of that bank, and they were going to go for LEED certified, got all the way to LEED Gold with their team and saved over a million dollars, in the host of all the things we did. That was huge. What a wonderful story! And they are just -- they have blown the doors off the bank, it’s amazing.
Then there’s a top 25 bank I got to do some consulting for on a one green building strategy. We were able to help the team identify six to eight million dollars as they were rolling out some branches that were going to be green, are going to be green, and took those from certified all the way to Gold and Platinum.
A local success story, family-owned construction company, developer, building owner, manager, Jacob White Construction. We just finished three LEED Platinums with them and there’s only two other companies in the whole world that have done that, and that’s Hines. They are huge real estate company, one of the greenest developers-owners-operators, they are here in Houston. And, then Adobe.
So this is truly easy for the big boys, easy for the little mom and pop nonprofit family-owned businesses. You have just got to have a great team, be committed, and once you dip your toe in the water and find the success, against all odds, you will see that you can actually come in negative cost.
0-2% is what people say now, but it can really be lots, lots less. Our green wedding was $18,000 less than the average wedding.
If everybody did that in Houston every year, we would be billion to a billion four more available in Houston just by saving on weddings every year.
John Barone: Dr. Marty Webb and Mark Robinson, thank you both for being with us today.
Marty, do you have any final words of advice to inspire our listeners?
Dr. Marty Webb: As an educator and for all of my education colleagues, everyday we have such an opportunity to impact the future through our work with children. I would just advise us to be mindful of the opportunities we have and to take advantage every single day of every opportunity to create a sustainable future. It took a whole team really to design our LEED project, our architect, our consultants, our contractors, subcontractors, project managers, but at the end of the day what we created is lasting, is sustainable, and we have that opportunity. We can make a difference and we should be making that difference everywhere we can.
Then finally, I just would like to invite all the listeners to join us on April 15, from 11-1 as the Monarch School’s Chrysalis Building is the Mayor’s Green Building tour honoree that day. We are at 2815 Rosefield. You can see our website, www.monarchschool.org for further information and we would love to have you visit. Our students will be leading the tours.
John Barone: That would be great. So that’s open to the general public, anybody can come and see the tour?
Dr. Marty Webb: Absolutely! And we have tours every Tuesday too at nine o’clock and you are invited to come to a tour any Tuesday during the school year.
John Barone: How about you, Mark, any parting words?
Mark Alan Robinson: This morning watching CNBC I heard a Lincoln automotive commercial. They said, when your heart and your head are saying the same thing, listen. I stopped and I said, that’s really what it’s about.
So dip your toe in the water, find some quick and easy successes, find the smiles, and share that success with other people. Tell them that this is possible. Let’s end the budget problems with schools and with our state and with our country and let’s really improve people’s performance and health. Have fun doing it too.
John Barone: Thank you for listening to Monarch Minutes, brought to you by the Monarch School, dedicated to providing an innovative, therapeutic education for individuals with neurological differences. Visit us on the web at www.monarchschool.org.
Total Duration: 24 Minutes
About The Monarch School
Founded in 1997 by Dr. Marty Webb, The Monarch School is now one of the nation's leading schools that provides an innovative, therapeutic education for children ages 3 to 29 years old with neurological differences, including Autism, Asperger's Disorder, learning disability, attention deficit disorder, Tourette's Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder & Dyslexia. The school's unique blend of psychology & education provides a highly individualized program to meet the emotional, social & academic needs of each child. Classes are small, staffed by highly trained teachers & psychology support staff.
About the EPA's "Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR" designation
Created in 2004, the EPA's "Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR" designation is one of two prominent methods to distinguish the building developers', owners' & design teams' commitment to energy-efficient design. (The other corollary method is certification under the US Green Building Council's LEED for New Construction or LEED for Core & Shell Rating Systems.) Architects of Record can submit their projects' DEES application simply by:
Why is Monarch School's Chrysalis' green operations & maintenance ENERGY STAR achievement so remarkable?
The New York Times in its August 2009's article "Some Buildings Not Living Up to Green Label" & New Buildings Institute's study "Energy Performance of LEED for New Construction buildings" revealed that 30 percent of LEED certified buildings perform 25 percent or worse than their design architects & engineers intended.
After Monarch School's design team (i.e., architects & engineers had fine-tuned HVAC & lighting issues outstanding 11 months after occupancy, GREEN POWER 4 TEXAS' Certified Energy Manager® Mark Robinson & Chrysalis' facility manager worked continually with staff & students for FREE, pure energy conservation, which alone boosted the school's energy performance from an ENERGY STAR score of 52 (roughly the nation's average K-12 performance) to 85 out of 100. At this energy usage intensity (kilowatt-hours per square foot), Chrysalis operates 29% above the nation's average K-12 school, saving more than $1,500,000 over its 90-year land lease.
About Momentum Bay & GREEN POWER 4 TEXAS
Momentum Bay, established in 2002, is a Texas-based full-service energy & sustainability management consulting firm. The firm's energy, sustainability & business experts help schools & other organizations go green profitably & practically by:
Momentum Bay & its business unit GREEN POWER 4 TEXAS have helped The Monarch School to:
>> To contact Momentum Bay's energy & sustainability consultants to help your school or organization achieve exemplary near carbon neutral design & operations, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Press Contacts:Momentum Bay Associates, LP
Email: press [at] momentumbay [dot] com
Tel: (281) 451-3841
Fax: (832) 553-7800
The Monarch School
Email: info [at] monarchschool [dot] org
Tel: (713) 479-0800