Myths and facts about green schools

Published on: 
30 Jun 2015

We’re here to dispel all of the myths you may have heard about green schools. Want to know why green schools are better? Check out the facts below.

  • Myth: Green schools are expensive to build.
    • Fact: Green schools do not have to cost a penny more than conventional schools. A 2007 report, The Cost of Green Revisited (Davis Langdon), examined 100 buildings that achieved LEED certification. When compared to a random sample of traditionally designed buildings and controlling for time, location and cost, the study found no significant difference in average costs for green buildings as compared to non-green buildings. By utilizing the integrated design process, a process that brings all stakeholders together to identify and resolve problems early in the process, green schools can be built for no additional premium. Costs to operate energy- and water-efficient schools are far less than corresponding costs for conventional schools. To create green schools, a community does not have to build new schools. There are many cost-effective measures available to turn the approximately 99,000 existing U.S. public schools into green schools.

  • Myth: LEED is expensive, so why certify?
    • Fact: LEED-certified buildings do not need to cost more than regular buildings, and you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Third-party certification validates and gives owners confidence that the building was built as designed, with performance in mind, and can be expected to perform as intended. Registration and certification fees are minimal; the documentation costs should be a cost of doing business. The cost to register and certify a 100,000-square-foot school for USGBC member organizations is less than $4,000 using LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance, and less than $5,500 using LEED for Schools. Costs and availability of green products and services are now competitive with conventional products.

  • Myth: Green schools do not save money.
    • Fact: Green schools are designed to save money. On average, green schools use 33% less energy and 32% less water than conventionally constructed schools, significantly reducing utility costs. The typical green school saves $100,000 per year on operating costs, enough to hire at least one new teacher, buy 200 new computers, or purchase 5,000 textbooks. By using LEED as a framework to green schools, stakeholders can ensure that schools are designed, maintained and monitored to deliver their highest performance.

  • Myth: Green schools require construction and renovation standards that create a burden.
    • Fact: Providing opportunities to develop green job skills is not a burden. Setting green construction and renovation standards provides opportunities for people to develop needed skills for the new green economy.

  • Myth: Green schools make sense in some states, but not ours.
    • Fact: Green schools make sense for every state and in every community. There is no prescriptive blueprint for a green school. A green school in Florida will have different project measures than a green school in Minnesota. The promise and potential of green schools should be one for every child in America, and all children deserve this opportunity. Green schools seek to save money through resource efficiency, green operations, and maintenance procedures and policies that create schools that are conducive to learning while saving energy, resources and money.

  • Myth: Green schools do not improve student health.
    • Fact: Green schools improve health through safer materials and products and by circulating cleaner air. Green schools emphasize high indoor air quality by improving air circulation, removing toxic materials and products, and reducing CO2 emissions. Nurses at green schools report fewer clinic visits, students note less eye-nose-throat irritation, and there are fewer asthma-related incidents, all of which contribute to improved student health and decreased absenteeism.

  • Myth: Green schools do not improve student performance.
    • Fact: Green schools create inviting classrooms that lessen distractions and encourage student participation. Green schools have clean air, high-quality acoustics, temperature control systems, and use daylighting strategies to create welcoming learning environments that lessen distractions and encourage student participation.

  • Myth: Green schools will not withstand our state’s severe weather.
    • Fact: Green schools are built to code. All new schools, green or conventional, must be built to code and are designed to withstand severe weather. Jurisdictions decide what structural, seismic, hurricane-resistant or flood-resistant measures their code will require along with all other fire and safety requirements.

  • Myth: Green schools can’t use wood grown in our state because LEED won’t let them.
    • Fact: LEED doesn’t prohibit the use of local wood; in fact, it rewards the use of materials acquired locally (within a 500-mile radius). LEED also rewards the use of wood that has been certified to be grown and harvested in an environmentally responsible way. If we are to drive fundamental change in the marketplace, we must focus on helping everyone in the building industry, including foresters, to improve the sustainability of their business practices. LEED is all about using resources wisely.

  • Myth: LEED-certified buildings don’t perform as expected.
    • Fact: LEED-certified buildings save energy, save water and save money. Proper operation and maintenance of a green building is how you ensure performance.

  • Myth: Green building codes are a replacement for green building rating systems like LEED.
    • Fact: Above-code green building rating systems, like LEED, are both distinct from and complementary to a district’s existing green building codes. To build truly sustainable schools, neighborhoods and communities, it’s not a choice between codes or rating systems, but it’s the use of both codes and rating systems, learning from one another and continuously improving content, implementation and results.