Green Schools in Alaska

By Rachel Gutter

Waking up before the sun rises is difficult for anyone, especially when it is 10 degrees below zero outside. Yet, every day, teachers, bus drivers, crossing guards, custodians, and myriad other school personnel are up and out the door before students and parents even begin their morning routine.

This is especially true in Alaska, where the dark days of winter span 685,000 square miles and four climate zones, and where school officials face a number of unique challenges.

For many Alaskan school districts, the sun doesn’t rise until 10 or 11 in the morning, and in some regions, not for weeks at a time. Despite these conditions, the personnel at these northernmost school districts, including Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna Borough (MSB) in Palmer, are getting out of bed and making sure their facilities are efficient, safe, and sustainable.

Jason Gamache, architect and sustainability coordinator for McCool Carlson Green Architects in Anchorage, says the connection between the state’s extreme conditions and the need to build and operate green buildings is not a new concept.

“People enjoy living here because they thrive on the beauty of the outdoor environment,” says Gamache. 

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