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Green Schools Improve Health, Achievement and Save Money

A new study shows how powerful common sense design and maintenance of schools is. We can improve our communities from the children greening schools.

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Great news... green schools are great! :-) Ask your local school to go green! You can make a difference for your children... Take this report to your principal and school board... The question that tugs at my heart is "Why have our schools fallen into this kind of construction and management system?" But the challenge now is to FIX the problem! Post haste...with common sense and concern for our kids, the staff and the environment. Retrofitting and improving procedures provide an immediate improvement opportunity.

Study shows going green saves schools $100,000 a Year, improves test scores, and improves health of students and teachers! Wow...tell us more!

While "building green" is a long term strategy, "going green" is an immediate change in the maintenance and procedures that can be implemented in every school. A lot of going green is common sense. See for an overview of techniques that help everyone improve common sense, green choices.

A new national report, Greening America's Schools, finds that building "green" would save an average school $100,000 each year -- enough to hire two new additional full-time teachers.

"This study underscores the enormous cost of poor design and the critical impact that good design and operation has on the quality of our children’s education," said AIA President Kate Schwennsen, FAIA. "The findings indicate that there are tremendous benefits from energy-efficient school design, not only from an economic standpoint, but from increased student test scores and far healthier environments through improved indoor air quality."

The report breaks new ground by demonstrating that green schools - schools designed to be energy efficient, healthy and environmentally friendly -- are extremely cost-effective. Total financial benefits from green schools outweigh the costs 20 to 1. With over $35 billion dollars projected to be spent in 2007 on K-12 construction, the conclusions of this report have far-reaching implications for future school design.

Sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, the American Institute of Architects, the American Lung Association, the Federation of American Scientists and the US Green Building Council, the report includes a detailed analysis of 30 green schools built in 10 states between 2001 and 2006.

The analysis demonstrates that the total financial benefits of green schools are 20 times greater than the initial cost, and include energy and water savings, and improved student health and test scores. If all new school construction and school renovations went "green" starting today, energy savings alone would total $20 billion over the next 10 years. Some of the major benefits documented in Greening America's Schools include:

On average, green schools use 33% less energy and 32% less water than conventional schools, and would improve national security by reducing reliance on imported energy.

Green schools typically have better lighting, temperature control, improved ventilation and indoor air-quality which contribute to reduced asthma, colds, flu and absenteeism… helping improve learning, test scores and lifetime student earnings.

Greening all school construction would create over 2000 additional new jobs each year from increased use of energy efficiency technologies.

Additional benefits calculated in the report include improved teacher retention and a reduction in dangerous air-pollutants that cause respiratory disease and premature mortality.

Specific school findings include:

  • The green school in Dedham, MA saved the town $400,000 in new sewer-system infrastructure by reducing stormwater runoff from the school grounds.
  • A review of five separate studies by Carnegie Mellon University found a 38.5% asthma reduction in buildings - such as green schools - from improved indoor air-quality.
  • One school district in North Carolina experienced a 33% increase in the percentage of students testing at grade-level for reading and math after moving to a green school.

Study author Greg Kats, a former Director of Finance for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the US Department of Energy, has worked with dozens of corporations, developers, state agencies and organizations to arrive at conservative cost/benefit comparisons of different environmental and building strategies. In Greening America's Schools, Kats emphasizes that the financial benefits of green schools are substantially broader than those quantified in the report and include the creation of new educational opportunities, improved equity in education and insurance savings.

"Building green schools," he writes, "is more fiscally prudent and lower risk than continuing to build unhealthy, inefficient schools."

Click here for the full report: Greening America's Schools Green Schools: Attributes for Health and Learning (2006) Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment Green Schools

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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