‘We need to integrate schools into the community’

“François Émond is an award-winning Montreal architect and, when it comes to schools, a big proponent of all things natural.

When he designs schools, he likes to ensure that all rooms are flooded with light, that fresh air circulates, that natural materials are used to minimize the release of volatile organic compounds (chemicals that seep out of products like plastic), that corridors are wide and bright, that there are common spaces like atriums. But he says school boards resist spending money on anything but the bare basics.

“Schools should be showing the way, not setting a bad example,” Mr. Émond says.

He says poorly maintained ventilation systems pose one of the biggest health threats to children because they allow dirty, recycled air to circulate and mould to flourish.

“Maintenance is really a neglected area,” he says. “People take care of their bodies and their cars, but when it comes to buildings, they don’t have a clue.”

One of the things he likes most about his son’s school, École FACE in downtown Montreal, is that it is so old (built in 1914) that it has no ventilation system, just old-fashioned, drafty windows. He also loves that he and his son, eight-year-old Gabriel, can walk or bike to school.”

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