‘Green’ Schools Don’t Deliver Energy Savings, Report Says

Green-certified schools typically cost more to build than conventional schools, and don’t always deliver energy savings, according to a USA Today report.

The newspaper says the Houston Independent School District — the seventh-largest school district in the nation — in 2007 implemented a series of energy-efficiency designs to achieve LEED certification for two new schools. These included automated light sensors and a heat-reflecting roof.

Last year, however, the schools ranked 205th and 155th out of 239 Houston schools in energy cost per student. A third “green” school built in 2010 ranked 46th.

According to USA Today, 16 states, accounting for about 50 percent of the US’ 100,000 schools, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars for green-certified schools or require districts to follow LEED or  similar guidelines to receive state construction funds. It says nine states have considered adding such requirements; Houston, Los Angeles and New York already mandate efficiency standards.

Citing a McGraw-Hill report, the newspaper says green schools, which exist in every state, represent 45 percent of new school construction and will account for all new school construction by 2025.

Building a LEED-certified school adds between 2 and 10 percent to construction costs, the newspaper reports.

The newspaper says the US Green Building Council is responsible for the “green-school boom,” and quotes a 2006 council-funded report that says LEED-certified schools use about a third less energy than their conventional counterparts. The report bases this on estimates made before construction of 30 schools, including Washington Middle School in Olympia, Wash., projected to use 28 percent less energy.

The school used 19 percent more energy than a conventional school in its first two years and 65 percent more than expected.

A study published last month by McGraw-Hill Construction said K-12 and universities plan to continue investments in green schools, citing financial and social benefits. The study, partially funded by the US Green Building Council, found 58 percent of administrators, facility managers and school design, and construction and real estate staffs at K-12 schools report decreased energy use in their green buildings; 55 percent cite lower annual costs.

For higher education, the financial benefits equate to 55 percent of respondents reporting decreased energy use and 46 percent reporting lower annual costs, the study said.

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3 thoughts on “‘Green’ Schools Don’t Deliver Energy Savings, Report Says

  1. Read the USA Today article: “Poor equipment maintenance plagued the schools built in 2007, a problem that districtwide improvements are now addressing, said Gavin Dillingham, the district’s energy manager until August.” In other words, if the owner does not operate the building effectively, it will not perform as designed. That is not the fault of the architect, engineer, contractor, USGBC, or the LEED certification program. The building needs to be operated properly after occupancy in order to save energy. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and don’t dismiss the LEED program if buildings are not maintained and operated correctly after the owner moves in. USGBC now requires owners to provide energy use data for five years after move-in, which should force owners to pay attention to how they operate their buildings.

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