Students at the 2nd Elementary School of Kallithea in Pendeli, northern Athens, say they like their new sustainable school, which opened in September.
Green roofs, harvested rainwater, floating stairs, photovoltaics, recycled water, soundproof doors and insulated floors are but some of the cutting-edge bioclimatic architecture technologies that have been introduced at 24 school buildings in Attica thanks to a public-private partnership (PPP) initiative.
The noise of the children’s footsteps in the corridors is absorbed by a special floor cover, the doors have a mechanism to avoid fingers getting caught and the toilets have automatic lighting. “It only costs 30 euros to run our nurse’s station because the school is built in such a way that it minimizes accidents and children catching colds,” says the school’s principal, Nikitas Tsirigos.
It took pupils and staff some time to adjust to their new surroundings. “The contractor called me one day to tell me a teacher had opened a window and the temperature had dropped to 19 degrees Celsius,” says Tsirigos. “When I advised her to close it, she started looking around for a hidden camera.”
A nursery has been built along the same lines next door, while similar schools have also been constructed in Gerakas, Koropi, central Athens, Ilion, Peristeri, Oropos and Keratsini – at a total cost of 110 million euros.
“In Thiseio, we redeveloped neoclassical buildings that were being used as squats, while in Keratsini we transformed the old Armenian steam bath into an arts high school,” says Nikos Mantzoufas, the Finance Ministry’s special secretary for PPPs. “We gave students a modern teaching environment, whereas before they had classes in prefabricated structures.”
The projects are also expected to boost property values in the schools’ broader vicinities, while a number of parents have expressed an interest in transferring their children from private schools to these public institutions.
The public-private partnership, named a Project Finance Deal of the Year by World Finance magazine, had several participants: Pendeli Municipality, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the ATESE and AVAX engineering and construction firms.
The contractor is being paid by the state over a 25-year period and the cost is not included in Greece’s national debt.
When ministry staff first heard about PPPs in 2007, they were skeptical, while many mayors raised objections on ideological grounds. By the end of 2011 the government had found companies to take on the work but local banks would not fund the projects. In the end, the firms came up with their own funds and the Commission stepped in with its JESSICA (Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas) fund.
“All children can study at schools like these as long as we make use of the various European funding programs, such as the [Jean-Claude] Juncker package,” says Argyris Peroulakis, deputy head of the European Commission Representation in Greece.