If you've picked up a newspaper or business publication lately, chances are you've read about "Gen Y" or the "Millennial Generation," the population of young adults born between the 1980s and late 1990s. Gen Y has affected everything from technology to workplace management, but when it comes to the education construction industry, does the Millennial Generation really play a role? Definitely.

According to a recent study, "Generation Y will be the generation to carry the load of years of environmental damages and neglect. It is embracing sustainability, and Generation Z, the generation that will follow Generation Y, is even more modeled around the concept of sustainability. The results reflect this new way of living."

For education institutions, this data means that prospective students aren't simply looking at traditional factors — cost, reputation, academics and financial aid — when selecting a school. Students are more concerned than ever about their impact on the environment, and they demand that academic institutions share their commitment to sustainability, oftentimes beyond the minimum level of environmental compliance standards.

Need more proof? Consider sites like www.greenreportcard.org, a website created to provide in-depth sustainability profiles of schools across the country.

Meeting Expectations

Growing up in a more eco-conscious world, incoming students are more savvy about "greening" the world around them. A decade ago, green college campuses were those that offered recycling bins in residence halls. Now education institutions are integrating sustainability efforts into as many aspects of their campus operations as possible. And that includes construction: When constructing or remodeling buildings on campus, education institutions' requests to construction companies have been moving decidedly in the green direction.

The construction industry has been ahead of the curve for a while in terms of adhering to LEED standards and helping institutions become more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. In recent years, that has meant much more than using renewable construction materials or installing solar panels. The demand for more eco-friendly lighting options in particular has increased, and the industry has been quick to adapt, which in turn serves as a selling point to students who are focused on sustainability.

So, whether an institution is considering new construction or renovating an existing space, there are ways to integrate sustainability into lighting schemes. A few eco-friendly lighting options that appeal to students include:

  • Installing larger windows in common areas to let in more natural light, thereby eliminating or reducing the use of electric lighting during daylight hours. Daylighting has been around for years in commercial office buildings, but is becoming more common in education institutions. Primarily incorporated into new construction, daylighting is both a practical and aesthetic design decision.

  • As a result of more natural light coming into common areas, solar lighting increasingly is being installed in conjunction with daylighting. Smaller solar panels installed inside a building collect light and convert it into energy to keep classrooms lighted during evening hours.

  • Energy-efficient bulbs are being installed in more classrooms to reduce utility bills as well as display an institution's pledge to sustainability.