Green to Gold

Green is the color of the moment when it comes to education facilities.

Many construction projects are achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification or adopting its principles, and numerous schools and universities are incorporating sustainable concepts into daily operations.

The move to green no longer is perceived to be as difficult or expensive as in the past, as the benefits to the environment and building occupants — as well as long-term savings to the institution — are undeniable.

Life-cycle cost and environmental benefits garner the most attention, but early research shows that green buildings may boost student performance; students in green buildings performed 20 percent better on tests, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Higher initial first cost often is cited as a reason to forgo building green, but that argument is getting thin. Estimates peg the increase in the cost of green construction to be between 1.9 percent and 6.8 percent. By using fewer resources and requiring less maintenance than other facilities, green buildings have an immediate and measurable return on an institution's operating costs that will more than recoup the initial added expense.

Schools and universities also may qualify for some “green” for going green. Public schools in Washington State are eligible for dollars for environmentally friendly construction. Other states and utilities provide funding for incorporating energy-efficient design, materials and equipment into the construction process.

For additional insight into green buildings, turn to the High-Performance Schools special section beginning on page 39. It includes valuable information on sustainable concepts in education design; the cost and environmental implications of building green; and product solutions that can help in achieving green goals.

As construction projects are planned, the question should not be whether or not to build green, but how green the building will be.

SCORECARD

The top green schools in America, as ranked by The Green Guide:

  • Punahou School, Honolulu.
  • The Willow School, Gladstone, N.J.
  • Desert Edge High School, Goodyear, Ariz.
  • East Clayton Elementary, Clayton, N.C.
  • Conserve School, Land O' Lakes, Wis.
  • Ross School, East Hampton, N.Y.
  • Michael E. Capuano Early Childhood Center, Somerville, Mass.
  • Clackamas High School, Clackamas, Ore.
  • Washburn Elementary School, Washburn, Wis.
  • One World Montessori, San Jose, Calif.
  • Sonoji Sakai Intermediate School, Bainbridge Island, Wash.

Source: The Green Guide, www.thegreenguide.com

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