Public schools across the country will soon have access to $500 million in grant funding through the Biden-Harris Action Plan for Building Better School Infrastructure. The funds will be used to improve the health and safety of kids, and could see an influx in job orders for the glass industry.
The program promotes a variety of energy upgrades that will improve the health and safety of the nation’s youth while in, and en route, to the classroom. The country’s 100,000 public K-12 schools received a D-plus report card with respect to infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2021, according to an administration news release. Those conditions have the potential to affect the learning and health of students through air quality, and can even increase the risk of transmitting respiratory infections such as COVID-19.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), such issues impact students’ attendance, comfort and performance. A June 2021 report from the Learning Policy Institute and Turnaround for Children also found that students learn best when in safe and comfortable environments. That includes having an adequate amount of natural light throughout the day.
In addition to health concerns, the administration writes that energy consumption is the second-highest operational expense for schools. Public districts spend approximately $8 billion on energy each year, also taking into account that a “significant portion” of that energy is lost through leaky walls and windows.
The program is good news for the glass industry, as daylighting and the installation of energy-efficient windows in schools serves to address concerns for safety, comfortability and energy consumption. President Biden has also set a goal of building a net-zero economy by 2050.
“Today’s highly energy-efficient windows, as well as advances in lighting design, reduce the need for artificial lighting during daylight hours without causing heating or cooling problems,” writes the Department of Energy (DOE).
Eligible are improvements that result in reductions to energy costs. Also eligible are improvements, repairs, renovations and installations to facilities that promote teacher and student health. Installation of additional and energy-efficient windows serves both purposes.
“The projects funded by these grants will improve the quality of the air our students and educators breathe while reducing energy costs and freeing up local funds to invest more in education,” the administration continues. “These grants can support comprehensive energy efficiency audits and building retrofits, HVAC and lighting upgrades, clean energy installation, and more—along with training to help staff maintain these improvements over the long-term.”
The U.S. Department of Energy has also issued a request for information. Responses, which may come from schools, energy service companies, and other institutions and organizations, are due by 5 p.m. May 18.