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It's nice to get a return on your investment. For schools and universities, it's especially nice — the extra money can be reinvested in the classroom or used to address other critical needs.

But what would you do with a return of 20 times your initial investment? That would be your windfall if you built a “green” school.

According to a recent report, “Greening America's Schools: Costs and Benefits,” the long-term financial benefits of constructing a sustainable facility are 20 times greater than the initial cost to build — saving an average of $100,000 a year per facility.

The benefits of building and operating green, sustainable, high-performance schools has been discussed numerous times in this column and in the pages of American School & University. The savings in energy, benefits to the environment, and healthful conditions created have prompted many education institutions to go green.

With data reported in “Greening America's Schools,” there is little excuse not to embrace the principles of green design and construction.

Among the report's findings:

  • Green schools use an average of 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than conventional schools.

  • Green schools typically have better lighting, temperature control, ventilation and indoor air quality — helping reduce asthma, colds, flu and absenteeism.

  • Green schools can contribute to improved test scores. One district in North Carolina had a 33 percent increase in students testing at grade-level for reading and math after moving to a green school.

As getting construction funding becomes more challenging, the ability to show the financial, environmental and performance payback on a community's investment is compelling.

Some of the best examples of energy-efficient, sustainable environments for learning can be found at the redesigned With about 3,000 projects available for perusal, school and university administrators planning construction have unparalled resources at their fingertips.



Average annual amount a school would save if designed to be environmentally friendly.


Amount, in billions, that would be saved in energy costs over the next 10 years if all new school construction and renovations were designed to be environmentally conscious.


Percentage green schools save in energy usage compared with conventional schools.


Percentage green schools save in water usage compared with conventional schools.


Number of new jobs that would be created annually from increased use of energy-efficient technologies if all school construction were green.

Source: “Greening America's Schools: Costs and Benefits,” American Institute of Architects and Capital E.,

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