november 10, 2006

New Report Shows Green Schools Save Money, Energy; Promote Good Health

Summary: Greening America’s Schools, a national report released October 31, reveals that building energy-efficient schools results in lower operating costs, improved test scores, and enhanced student health. The AIA-sponsored report—produced by Capital E, a national clean energy technology and green building consulting firm—concludes that schools that are designed to be environmentally friendly would save an average of $100,000 each year.

The report offers a detailed analysis of 30 green schools in 10 states built between 2001 and 2006. This sample 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. With more than $35 billion projected to be spent in 2007 on K-12 construction, the conclusions of this report have far-reaching implications for future school design.

“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,” says 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.”

Great benefits, cost and otherwise
If all new school construction and renovations were designed to be environmentally conscious starting today, the report states, energy savings alone would total $20 billion over the next 10 years. The major benefits documented in Greening America’s Schools include:

  • Green schools use an average of 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than conventional schools
  • Green schools typically have better lighting, temperature control, and improved ventilation and indoor air-quality, which contribute to reduced asthma, colds, flu, and absenteeism
  • A study of Chicago and Washington, D.C., schools found that better facilities can add 3-4 percentage points to a school’s standardized test scores
  • Greening all school construction would create more than 2,000 additional new jobs each year from increased use of energy-efficiency technologies.

“More fiscally prudent and lower risk”
Study author and Capital E Managing Principal Greg Kats states, “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 is more fiscally prudent and lower risk than continuing to build unhealthy, inefficient schools.”

Kats is the former director of finance for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the U.S. Department of Energy and has worked with dozens of corporations, developers, state agencies, and organizations to arrive at conservative cost/benefit comparisons of different environmental and building strategies.

The report’s finding include:

  • A green school in Dedham, Mass., saved the town $400,000 in new sewer-system infrastructure by reducing storm-water runoff from the school grounds
  • A review of five separate studies by Carnegie Mellon University found a 38.5 percent asthma reduction in buildings—such as green schools—from improved indoor air-quality.

One North Carolina school district experienced a 33 percent increase in the percentage of students testing at grade level for reading and math after moving to a green school.

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Visit Capital E’s Web site for a downloadble PDF of the report.