Extreme heat waves recently caused some schools in the Northeast and Midwest to cancel classes, and rising temperatures are prompting some school districts in states like Utah to add air conditioning to campuses that didn’t need them in years past. More frequent and powerful natural disasters are adding tangible costs, too, pushing thousands more districts to shell out for insurance.

Dan Boggio, founder and executive chairman of national architectural firm PBK, says his company has been designing schools with extreme heat in mind for about 10 years. But it’s typically architects who bring up the need for climate-related features rather than a conversation initiated by district personnel, he adds.

“When we start a planning process for new schools and renovations, we have an entire list of things we bring forward as a result of climate change,” Boggio says, like the adoption of solar panels to cut down energy use or double-paned glass to keep out heat.

As Boggio explains how climate change has affected his firm’s approach to building schools, he describes changes that touch nearly every aspect of the process, from selection of a building site (preferably somewhere with lots of surrounding green space) to the choice of paint colors (nothing dark that will absorb heat).

“We don’t want to be in a sea of concrete, because that increases the temperature of the microenvironment — we call it a heat sink,” Boggio explains. “We’re saving more trees than ever on these sites. It used to be we would just typically mow down all the trees to get the baseball diamonds and the football practice fields in.”

Much of what Boggio describes about new construction and renovation deals points to a singular goal: reflect as much heat as possible.

His architects are using what he calls “high-performance glass,” once reserved for high-rise buildings, on schools to cut down on solar radiation. School attics are renovated with reflective material that will keep heat from penetrating further down. Brick buildings that are 70 or 80 years old are painted with an elastomeric coating — i.e., rubbery paint — to reflect sunlight that would normally be absorbed by the masonry and create what Boggio calls a “heat battery.”

The buildings themselves and mechanical equipment are being built higher up to protect them from flooding. In Texas, for example, “it used to be that we had to have them out of the 100-year floodplain; now they have to be a certain distance higher,” Boggio says. And for equipment that sits outside, like condensers, “we're raising them up on racks because [of] the increased amount of flooding that is a direct result of climate change.”

Read the full article about redesigning school buildings by Nadia Tamez-Robledo at EdSurge.