Keep Houston Beautiful

Monarch Receives Mayor's Proud Partner Award

Monarch recently received 2014 Mayor's Proud Partner Award, sponsored by Keep Houston Beautiful, for its amazing campus and fantastic environmental programs.

On behalf of the Monarch Institute and The Monarch School, Dr. Debrah Hall receives the
2014 Mayor's Proud Partner Award from City of Houston Mayor Annise Parker and
Keep Houston Beautiful Chairman Jim Tates.

About our campus
Our little school comes from very humble beginning--temporary building just a few years ago, to a state-of-the-art campus recognized as one of the “Greenest special needs school in the nation.”

The Monarch School is dedicated to providing an innovative, therapeutic education for individuals with neurological differences—such as those associated with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder, learning disabilities, Tourette Syndrome, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, traumatic brain injury and seizure disorders.

The beautiful Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences, John M. O’Quinn Campus is home to The Monarch School’s Gold Level LEED® certified campus which includes the Chrysalis Building, the Butterfly Building, and Monarch Center, as well as the new Living Building Studio Classroom. 

The Monarch School’s Chrysalis building is the first LEED® Gold certified and “Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR®” certified special education school in the United States.  The Monarch School completed its Chrysalis Building in 2009 and received LEED® Gold Level certification in 2010. In 2013, the Monarch School’s Chrysalis building received the ENERGY STAR® certification for the third year in a row.

With the start of the 2013-2014 school-year students saw the competition of two new environmentally green buildings on campus, the Butterfly Building and Monarch Center. Both buildings received LEED® Gold Level certification in June 2014. With the completion of these buildings, The Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences, John M. O’Quinn Campus dedication ceremony was held February 18, 2014.

The Monarch Campus has a unique environmental design aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health. The Chrysalis building, Butterfly building and the Monarch Center building incorporate indirect lighting, soothing colors, clean air, and space design specifically shaped for individuals with neurological differences. The outdoor campus supports acres of project work in environmental education. All children deserve the most non-toxic environment possible in which to learn.

Living Building Studio Classroom is the ultimate extension for The Monarch School’s sustainability efforts through its participation in The Living Building Challenge.

Today, The Living Building Challenge is the most advanced measure possible of sustainability in the built environment. Ultimately, the project will showcase three viable renewable energy sources—solar energy, wind power and geothermal energy, as well as incorporate active water harvesting. Students will conduct tours to educate the community about the value of these resources.

Benefits to the Students
An important aspect of The Monarch School’s environmental education program is that it offers our students with special needs the opportunity to learn about the environmental elements of our campus, and as they learn they share the knowledge of how to be good stewards of the environment with their families and the larger Houston community. 


“Monarch is committed to providing a healthy environment in which to deliver education and services to individuals with neurological differences.” said Dr. Debrah Hall, Head of The Monarch School and Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences.

Educational Benefit to the Community

Tours of our LEED® Gold certified campus are conducted by Monarch students and include information from our Green Points Directory that are displayed throughout the school as a teaching tool about sustainability and the environment.  The students use the directory to describe how the buildings were designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. 

Monarch students also conduct tours of our Living Building Studio Classroom. The Studio Classroom is the first project in Texas built to meet the requirements of the Living Building Challenge (LBC). To date, there are only five certified Living Buildings in the entire world. Today, The Living Building Challenge is the most advanced measure possible of sustainability in the built environment. The Living Building Challenge is the ultimate extension for The Monarch School’s sustainability efforts. 

The studio serves as an outdoor living classroom in which the student’s day-to-day interactive decision making will help the building achieve net zero energy and water performance. Students use interactive decision making to help achieve net zero energy and water performance in the Living Building.  For example, Students monitor the building’s Heating and Cooling, Nature Light and LED Light, Wind Energy, Water Harvesting, and Geothermal System.  

Benefit of Partnerships and Volunteering
The Monarch School has a tradition of partnering with organizations which benefit the larger community. 

We do this to teach students civil responsibility, and to demonstrate to citizens that individuals with neurological differences can contribute back to the community. Some of The Monarch School’s partnerships include Galveston Bay Foundation, Starbucks and David Weekley Homes.

The Monarch School’s commitment to partnering with the Galveston Bay Foundation began in 2010. Galveston Bay Foundation volunteers work closely with students and teachers to establish a salt marsh wetland nursery on campus and later guides students and teachers in transplanting their established grasses at carefully selected marsh restoration sites around Galveston Bay.

As a partner with Galveston Bay Foundation, students at The Monarch School learn about our environment and are able to help sustainability efforts in our community at large by helping to restore and transplant the marsh grasses in Galveston Bay.

The Monarch students also partner with other organizations, volunteers and business to promote sustainability efforts. For example, The Monarch School partnered with Starbucks volunteers to plant fruit for Monarch’s campus-wide orchard and David Weekley Homes Outreach volunteers helped trim tree limbs and prune shrubs as part of a campus beautification project.

Key Features of the Monarch Campus
Buildings on Monarch's LEED® Gold certified campus were designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. 

Water Use Reduction - The Monarch School has reduced its water use by over 30% by choosing low flow plumbing fixtures and dual flush valves. Using less water reduces the burden on the municipal water supply and wastewater systems.
Stormwater Management & Harvesting
 -  The stormwater management system at The Monarch School is designed to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff prior to its discharge into the public system. Water collected from the roof is first filtered through the river rock swale surrounding the building. Stormwater is then filtered a second time as it passes through the bog in the detention pond. Cisterns will ultimately store the pre-filtered stormwater for use in landscape irrigation. 

Green Power - The Monarch School is powered by 100% renewable energy technologies. In addition to using a green energy provider, on-site wind turbines and solar technologies are in the works for the future. They will power the Learning Pavilions in order to give Monarch students a direct experience of living off of the power grid. Green energy production greatly lessens the negative environmental impact of power generation, namely air pollution and global warming.

Daylight Sensors & Dimmers - The Monarch Center and Butterfly Buildings have been designed to reduce electricity consumption by taking advantage of the abundance of natural light. Daylight sensors will automatically dim lights according to the amount of natural daylight available. Day lighting in the Chrysalis Building will also accommodate the lower level of light preferred by some students. So don't be surprised to find the lights off around The Monarch School!

Monitoring Energy Use - Metering systems will enhance the environmental education at The Monarch School by enabling students to monitor and reduce the school's energy consumption and carbon footprint. This feedback helps to develop responsible habits that will save electricity and help the planet both now and in the future. 

Recycling Program - Students manage The Monarch School's comprehensive recycling program. Paper, cardboard, glass, plastics and metals are collected at various locations throughout the campus and then transported to the campus recycling center for pick up. Waste is further reduced by composting for student gardening projects. These efforts divert waste from landfills, save trees and reduce the energy consumption required to produce aluminum products.

Recycled Content - Over 20% of the Chrysalis Building was constructed from recycled materials. In addition to providing a home for recycled building materials, 89% of the waste produced during construction was directed back into the recycling chain so that it may be put to good use elsewhere. Reusing materials reduces the negative impact of extracting and processing virgin materials while diverting waste from landfills.

Regional Materials - Over 20% of the Chrysalis Building was constructed from materials that were extracted and manufactured within a 500 mile radius. Choosing indigenous resources supports the local economy and reduces the environmental impact resulting from the transportation of goods. 

Low-Emitting Materials - All of the paint, coatings, adhesives, sealants and carpeting in the Chrysalis Building contain low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Choosing materials with low VOC content reduces indoor air contaminants that are odorous, irritating and harmful to the comfort and well-being of occupants. Combined with a healthy dose of fresh air ventilation, that means you can breathe easy at The Monarch School.

Daylighting - Day lighting strategies introduce natural light while controlling heat gain, glare, visual quality and variations in daylight availability. The Monarch School buildings utilize courtyards and wings to increase access to daylight along the perimeter, while clerestory windows admit light into the central spaces.  The intense Houston sun is controlled by porches, overhangs and interior light shelves.  Day lighting reduces the need for electrical lighting while increasing occupant productivity.

Views - Where appropriate, access to views of the outdoors has been maximized throughout The Monarch School campus.  This visual connection to the natural environment serves the therapeutic purpose of healing any sense of separation from it.

Alternative Transportation - The Monarch School has reduced its carbon footprint by encouraging eco-friendly transportation. The campus is conveniently located on two bus routes. Those who elect to carpool or who drive a low-emitting, fuel efficient vehicle enjoy preferred parking. Staff who prefer to pedal to work park at the bicycle rack and then shower and change in the Monarch Center. Finally, post graduates who live in one of the school-owned residences in the neighborhood may walk to campus.

Reduced Heat Island Effect - The impact of heat gain on the microclimate and on urban and wildlife habitats in urban areas has been minimized at The Monarch School by using highly reflective materials for both the roof and pavement surfaces. The "cool roof" also keeps the building occupants cool while using less energy.

Key Features of the Living Building Studio Classroom
Students will play a primary role in monthly monitoring of the school’s environmental efforts including —water harvesting, irrigation, water conservation, electrical consumption and the wind turbine. As we plan for the future, student’s outdoor activities and curriculum will include planning and sustaining an orchard, pond and gardens. The students will have the responsibility to share and teach about our conservation and sustainability efforts with others. The studio serves as an outdoor living classroom in which the student’s day-to-day interactive decision making will help the building achieve net zero energy performance.

The students will be Environmental Education Ambassadors and Tour Leaders and will cover topics about the Living Building Studio Classroom  that include: Heating and Cooling Systems, Nature Light vs LED Light, Wind Energy, Water Harvesting, Geothermal System, and the LBC Studio is ”Red List” Free building materials. 

In addition, students will also cover information about the Living Building Challenge and the seven performance areas and 20 related imperatives that
are requirements for becoming a Living Building.

1). SITE – Limits to Growth, Urban Agriculture, Habitat Exchange,
                Car Free Living

2). WATER – Net Zero Water, Ecological Water Flow

3). ENERGY – Net Zero Energy 

4). HEALTH – Civilized Environment, Healthy Air, Biophilia

5). MATERIALS–Red List, Embodied Carbon Footprint,
                        Responsible Industry, Appropriate Sourcing,
                        Conservation + Reuse 

6). EQUITY – Human Scale + Humane Places, Democracy + Social
                    Justice, Rights to Nature.

7). BEAUTY – Beauty + Spirit, Inspiration + Education 




Monarch Student In the Community: