Energy-efficient design can save individual school buildings $100,000 a year, enough to hire two full-time teachers, concludes a report released recently by Capital E, an energy consulting firm, and co-sponsored by the American Institute of Architects.
The long-term financial benefits of so-called “green schools” are 20 times greater than the initial cost to build them, says the report, “Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits.”
The report by the Washington-based organization said such schools offer lower energy costs, produce fewer pollutants, and use smaller amounts of water than traditional school buildings. In addition, green schools help reduce student illnesses, including complications from asthma, and can even improve teacher retention, according to the report. The study analyzed 30 such schools built between 2001 and 2006 in 10 states.
“Improvements in any one of these factors is a story,” said Capital E managing partner and study author Gregory H. Kats.
The report also says that green schools can have a positive impact on student achievement. For instance, three of the schools examined showed increases in student performance that the report says are linked to their status as green schools. Third Creek Elementary School in Statesville, N.C., for one, was built to replace facilities for two older schools. Student test scores there rose after students moved to the new facility, which uses extensive natural lighting, energy-recovery ventilation, and many other “green” features.
William A. Brenner, the director of the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities in Washington, said that the report reinforced truths that facility planners already knew.
“ ‘Green schools’ is simply shorthand for good design in the traditional sense: building for the long run by creating more effective learning spaces, conserving resources, and reducing long-range operating costs,” he wrote in an e-mail.
A version of this article appeared in the November 15, 2006 edition of Education Week