School Climate & Safety

Being Green Getting Easier

By Laura Greifner — June 13, 2006 1 min read

Designing and building energy-efficient schools may cost more upfront, but the long-term savings more than make up the difference, school construction officials were told at a recent conference.

In fact, most buildings cost only 2 percent more to be built “green,” according to Gregory H. Kats, the keynote speaker at the conference, “Investing in the Future: Building Green Schools,” held May 17 at Haverford College in Haverford, Penn.

Mr. Kats is a principal at Capital E, a Washington-based consulting firm on clean energy technology.

A green, or “sustainable,” building is one that incorporates natural elements in its design and structure and has a minimal impact on the environment. (“School Seeks World-Class Rating for Energy Efficiency,” Dec. 14, 2005.) Advocates argue that such designs have positive effects on students’ health and performance.

The daylong summit, which drew more than 100 attendees, featured discussions of the trade-offs between the costs and benefits of building green schools, presentations of case studies, and information about tools and resources for creating green buildings.

“It is an intergenerational obligation” to construct sustainable buildings, argued Mr. Kats, who is also the author of several studies, including his recent study, “National Review of Green Schools: Costs, Benefits, and Implications for Massachusetts.”

In an afternoon panel discussion on tools for building green, Anja S. Caldwell spoke from her experiences having established and managed the Green Schools Focus for the Montgomery County, Md., public schools. The program teaches environmental responsibility and resource conservation to students in the 139,000-student district. For example, Northwood High School installed a vegetated, “green roof” stormwater management system, the first on a Maryland public school, last August.

The Green Schools Focus recently co-sponsored a “Portable Classroom Design Challenge” in which participants—from elementary school students to professional architects—designed energy-efficient portable classrooms. A team from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Md., won the student division with “Rooms to Go,” a classroom that featured a retractable window-wall in a non-traditional use of space.

A version of this article appeared in the June 14, 2006 edition of Education Week

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