Every week day across the U.S. millions of children sit in school buildings. The majority of the buildings do not efficiently use energy or water, and many of the buildings are downright unhealthy. However, in the last few years there has been a push to build more energy efficient schools.
In 2006 the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released a report titled, “Greening America’s Schools.” The report stated that not investing in “green technologies is not financially responsible for school systems.” The report looked at 30 “green” schools, and concluded that they cost two percent less to build than conventional schools, but provide twenty percent more benefits financially.
Last October the Green Schools Caucus was formed in the House of Representatives by Reps. Darlene Hooley (D-OR), Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Jim Matheson (D-UT). The goal of the caucus is to promote the awareness and benefits of more eco-friendly schools.
Former teacher, Rep. Hooley, said, “Through collaborative partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, we will work to raise awareness among the public and members of Congress of the benefits of building green.”
The USGBC began its “Fifty for Fifty” initiative to work with state lawmakers in every state to both promote green school buildings, and create green schools caucuses in every state legislature on September 4.
The USGBC recently gave a $150,000 grant to a research team from the New York State Department of Health who are conducting a study on the effects of green building features on the performance and health of students and teachers. The New York State Department of Health gave a $142,919 matching grant to the research team.
The Kelly Creek Elementary School in Gresham, Oregon announced this week that it completed their “green” makeover. The school won Ford’s Educate to Escape contest. Ford partnered with the ABC show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The school’s playground was remade with eco-friendly materials. Marmoleum flooring and whiteboards were installed, and water fixtures were updated. The entire makeover was worth $250,000. The school will undergo a review period where it will be tested by LEED officials in hopes of obtaining LEED certification.
“Our new playground is not only safe and durable, but sustainable, and we’re proud to spread the message about green living to other schools across the U.S.,” said Bob Goerke, Principal, Kelly Creek Elementary.
Benefits of building green
Three LEED certified schools provide examples of the financial benefits of building green schools: the Sidwell Friends Middle School in Washington, D.C., the Clearview Elementary School in Hanover, Pennsylvania, and the Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The Sidwell Friends Middle School, a private school run by Quakers, built a new 39,000 square foot building, and renovated a 55 year-old 35,500 square foot building. The school reduced 90 percent of its municipal water use, and 60 percent of its energy use. Between the two buildings, the school constructed a wetland that treats bathroom and kitchen waste water which is then used to water vegetation on the school grounds.
The Clearview Elementary serves grades kindergarten through fourth grade. It constructed a 43,000 square foot, two story building that cost only 2.5 percent more than comparably sized schools in the area. The school building uses 30 percent less water, and saves the school district $18,000 a year. Forty percent of the materials used to build the school were manufactured within 500 miles of the site.
The Fossil Ridge High School constructed a 290,000 square foot building with an 18,000 student capacity. The building uses natural lighting with windows placed on multiple sides of classrooms and solatubes in the ceiling. It is sixty percent more energy efficient than a similarly sized building. Almost 75 percent of its construction waste was recycled, which saved it from ending up in a landfill.