Environmentalism aside, the new building is quite impressive.

The middle school no longer has to hold science classes in those dinky rooms that, despite the linoleum floors and chemical-resistant tables, aren’t real labs.

The building looks good, if a bit imposing, and gives the middle school the facelift it’s needed for years.

And, to be fair, the thing is pretty environmentally friendly. The light fixtures and air conditioning units consume less energy, the arcade shields the classrooms from the sun and every room has a thermostat, ensuring that no teacher will need to leave their door open with the air conditioning on just to ensure the comfort of their neighbor.

Yep, everything’s up to code.

But that’s just it. Everything done in the new science building to shrink our carbon footprint merely satisfies the code and doesn’t do much more beyond that.

One of our editors once said that when he was first enrolled at SCDS, his parents’ friends knew Country Day only as that “crunchy granola alternative school.”

While that title may be more aptly applied to Waldorf, we still would like to think we’re progressive.

At least a little more progressive than the Catholic behemoths, Jesuit, Christian Brothers and St. Francis.

But if you look at our environmental track record, we lag far behind. Jesuit won a Sacramento County Sustainable Building award in 2012, Christian Brothers has several buildings with power usage control systems, and St. Francis has solar panels that provide nearly a third of their energy.

Of course, those three have much more money flowing through their respective coffers. Because of their larger budgets, they can erect new buildings, which is what’s needed to make any really significant environmental improvement.

Last year, when the high school was renovated, the cost of putting any meaningful work into the buildings to make them more environmentally friendly would have been disproportionate to the buildings’ value.

However, this new building was our chance to put our best foot forward, so to speak.

The costs for the environmental improvements of a completely energy-neutral building are at most 10 percent more than the original cost.

And both SMUD and PG&E pay architects to create environmentally friendly designs for their buildings.

In skipping that step, we lost what could have been a shining example of our dedication to both environmental sustainability and the teaching of the sciences.

But the best argument is that we’d be back on top of our peers when it comes to “crunchiness.”

After all, if we can’t do it for the environment, we can at least do it to best Jesuit.

Previously published in the print edition on Nov. 25, 2014.

 

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