Green School Design: Cost-Effective, Healthy, and Better for Education
Some 55 million students spend their days in schools that are too often unhealthy, restrict their ability to learn, require unsustainable amounts of resources to construct and maintain, and contribute substantially to environmental problems such as pollution and climate change. A recent and rapidly growing trend is designing schools with the specific intent of providing healthy, comfortable, and productive learning environments. However, these green, high-performance schools generally cost more to build — a major obstacle at a time of limited school budgets and an expanding student population.
We were commissioned to conduct a study that asked how much more does green school design cost, and is greening schools cost-effective? Our conclusion: the data provide a clear and compelling case that greening schools today is extremely cost-effective, and represents a fiscally far better design choice. Building green schools is more fiscally prudent and lower risk than continuing to build unhealthy, inefficient schools.
The study, titled "Greening America's Schools: Costs and Benefits," was 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. It entailed a detailed analysis, using conservative and prudent financial assumptions, of 30 green schools built in 10 states between 2001 and 2006. Its complete text can be found at http://www.cap-e.com/ewebeditpro/items/O59F11233.pdf.
("Green school" designs are to a substantial extent based on the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — LEED — which is the national consensus green building standard. LEED rates projects according to their impact on their sites, materials used and how they are sourced, and the design, construction, and efficiency of a variety of systems including water, energy, air quality, lighting, acoustics, waste, and transportation. A rating system specifically designed for K–12 schools is currently being drafted, including a proposal for LEED credit for integrating sustainable facility features with the curriculum.)
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