A Green School For Real

DO THEY HAVE ANY IDEA?

Monongalia County Schools must insist that the SBA green school grant be divided in two. One part to build a green school on revitalized Woodburn school grounds. The other part to build another green school on sensible grounds where it is needed.

What we can expect of top quality green schools:

A green roof. Green roofs reduce sound pollution, air pollution, roof wear and tear, while controlling for temperature and water runoff:

WVU Green Roof

WVU


Chicago

New York City

Penn State

Toronto Green Roof

Toronto (where now by law all new roofs must be built green)

Furthermore, we reasonably expect that a full understanding of green schools’ many vital features and benefits be widely disseminated to the school public. See, below, for instance, “Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits,” by Gregory Kats.

“This carefully documented study conclusively demonstrates the financial, environmental, and other benefits of using green technologies in schools. In fact, failure to invest in green technologies is not financially responsible for school systems; the study uses conservative accounting practices to show that investments in green technologies significantly reduce the life-cycle cost of operating school buildings. And the public benefits of green schools are even larger than those that work directly to the financial advantage of schools. These include reductions in water pollution, improved environmental quality, and increased productivity of learning in an improved school environment.”

— Henry Kelly, President, Federation of American Scientists

“This important study persuasively demonstrates that it costs little more to build high performance, healthy schools and that there are enormous financial, educational and social benefits to students, schools and society at large.”

— Edward J. McElroy, President, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO

Executive Summary: Greening America’s Schools

Some 55 million students spend their days in schools that are too often unhealthy and that restrict their ability to learn. A recent and rapidly growing trend is to design schools with the specific intent of providing healthy, comfortable and productive learning environments. These green, high performance schools generally cost more to build, which has been considered a major obstacle at a time of limited school budgets and an expanding student population. A 2005 survey by Turner Construction Company of 665 senior executives found that executives are discouraged from undertaking green construction because of concerns about cost, and a lack of awareness and available information on the financial benefits of green buildings.

This report is intended to answer this fundamental question: how much more do green schools cost, and is greening schools cost effective?

Conventional schools are typically designed just to meet building codes — that are often incomplete. Design of schools to meet minimum code performance tends to minimize initial capital costs but delivers schools that are not designed specifically to provide comfortable, productive, and healthy work environments for students and faculty. Few states regulate indoor air quality in schools or provide for minimum ventilation standards. Not surprisingly, a large number of studies have found that schools across the country are unhealthy — increasing illness and absenteeism and bringing down test scores.

This report documents the financial costs and benefits of green schools compared to conventional schools. This national review of 30 green schools demonstrates that green schools cost less than 2% more than conventional schools – or about $3 per square foot ($3/ft2) – but provide financial benefits that are 20 times as large. Greening school design provides an extraordinarily cost-effective way to enhance student learning, reduce health and operational costs and, ultimately, increase school quality and competitiveness.

The financial savings are about $70 per ft2, 20 times as high as the cost of going green. (Table A) Only a portion of these savings accrue directly to the school. Lower energy and water costs, improved teacher retention, and lowered health costs save green schools directly about $12/ft2, about four times the additional cost of going green. For an average conventional school, building green would save enough money to pay for an additional full-time teacher. Financial savings to the broader community are significantly larger, and include reduced cost of public infrastructure, lower air and water pollution, and a better educated and compensated workforce.

Green schools provide a range of additional benefits that are not quantified in this report, including reduced teacher sick days, reduced operations and maintenance costs, reduced insured and uninsured risks, improved power quality and reliability, increased state competitiveness, reduced social inequity, and educational enrichment. There is insufficient data to quantify these additional benefits, but they are substantial and, if calculated, would substantially increase the recognized financial benefits of greening schools.

Building healthy high performance school buildings is now far more fiscally prudent and lower risk than building conventional, inefficient and unhealthy school buildings.

Full report with photos.

A text summary.

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