Product: Green Building and Healthy Indoor Environmental Quality
- Criteria: How Do I Know It's Green?
- Costs: Can I Afford It?
- Green Products: How Do I Find Them?
- Beyond Buying: Other Environmentally Friendly Options
Green Products: How Do I Find Them?
We have compiled a Green Building Resources Directory to help you navigate green building information: green school certification programs, green building products directories, green portable classrooms, and even carpet take-back programs.
To find these green products go to:
Criteria: How Do I Know It's Green?
There are many individual steps that can be taken to green your building, including siting your school with energy use in mind; reducing your energy use through purchasing energy-efficient lightbulbs and EnergyStar appliances; reducing water use with low flow toilets, showers and sinks and waterless urinals; improving air quality with low-emitting carpets, furniture and paints; purchasing recycling and compost bins for every room; and promoting creative play in outdoor spaces.
The following two rating programs certify school buildings as “green” and are aimed at new school construction, but can also provide guidelines and ideas for the repair or renovation of existing buildings. Programs for certifying existing schools are under development. You can still make many green choices for maintaining and operating existing schools, and some counties in California will recognize schools as a Green Business if they take steps toward greening their existing school (see San Jose's example).
The green building universe is growing by the day and there are numerous product certification systems, green building materials databases and product lists. Programs like Green Seal, Green Guard, Environmental Choice or Green Label Plus certify that specific green building products – such as paint, furniture, carpets, insulation, or ceiling tiles – meet particular green standards such as low off-gassing or recycled content. We do not want to recreate that whole universe, rather we have compiled some of these resources in the Green Building Resources Directory (above).
LEED for Schools
The US Green Building Council (USGBC) developed the LEED certification program for green buildings. The LEED for Schools Rating System recognizes the unique nature of the design and construction of K-12 schools and addresses issues such as classroom acoustics, master planning, mold prevention and environmental site assessment. By addressing the uniqueness of school spaces and children’s health issues, LEED for Schools provides a comprehensive tool for schools that wish to build green, with measurable results. LEED for Schools is a third-party standard for high-performance schools that are healthy for students, comfortable for teachers, and cost-effective. LEED certification provides teachers and the community with a “report card” for their school buildings—verifying that the school has been built to meet the highest level of performance. A LEED-certified architect will review the building plans for a fee and determine your rating and certification.
Collaborative for High Performance Schools
CHPS oversees the nation’s first green building rating program especially designed for K-12 schools. The CHPS Criteria is a comprehensive system of environmentally responsible benchmarks designed by the CHPS technical committee, which is made up of over fifty school facilities experts including state agency officials, designers, school district officials, contractors, product manufacturers and energy and water utility officials. A CHPS school is a school that strives to achieve excellence in environmental efficiency and healthy building practices. CHPS recognizes superior design teams and school districts through award ceremonies, case studies and media outreach. Schools can self-certify their school through the free CHPS Designed program, or seek third-party verification of their high performance school through the CHPS Verified program.
Costs: Can I Afford It?
In 2006 Greg Kats wrote a groundbreaking study, “Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits,” demonstrating that green schools are a cost-effective way to control school maintenance and operation costs, improve test scores by enhancing student health, and reduce schools’ impact on the environment. This national review of 30 green schools demonstrates that green schools cost less than 2% more than conventional schools - or about $3 per square foot ($3/ft2) - but provide financial benefits that are 20 times as large. Greening school design provides an extraordinarily cost-effective way to enhance student learning, reduce health and operational costs and, ultimately, increase school quality and competitiveness.
Many green products like energy-efficient appliances, carpeting and paints are now competitively priced and many of these products are available at discounts through the California procurement process (See Green Buying Tools links). There are also many resources available to subsidize green schools, with more coming all the time. Here are a few:
EMSI- GreenCap Program
One resource that is available to address the need for incremental funds to cover the added costs of designing and constructing schools is the Green Capital for Green Schools or GreenCap Program offered by EMSI. Through GreenCap, EMSI offers a variety of financing mechanisms to cover the incremental capital cost requires to design and build a green, high performance school. Together with its financial institution partners, EMSI helps school districts access public and private grants, equipment leases, build-own-operate financing, loans (including tax-exempt loans) and energy saving contracts.
California Proposition 1D
California voters approved a $100 million high performance school incentive package under Proposition 1D in November 2006. The funding is part of a larger $10.4 billion package to upgrade public schools, including kindergarten through twelfth grade, community colleges, and state universities. The high performance incentives will fund new construction, modernizations and relocatables that promote the efficient use of water, natural resources and energy, and also provide superior indoor air quality, acoustics, and lighting. Eligible school projects will be awarded incentives through the Office of Public School Construction (OPSC) on a first-come, first-serve basis until the funding runs out. For information and links to OPSC regulations: http://www.chps.net/Prop1D.htm
Williams Case Settlement: Emergency Repair Program
A class action lawsuit was brought against the State of California in 2000 arguing that the Department of Education failed to provide public school students with equal access to instructional materials, safe and decent school facilities, and qualified teachers. The state settled the case in 2004. As part of the settlement, up to $800 million was allocated to a school facilities Emergency Repair Program (ERP). Williams Settlement funds may be used to make repairs at eligible low-performing schools, and repairs can be made using green building materials (though grants cover only replacement costs). ERP Grants are administered by the Office of Public School Construction.
21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act
In May 2009 the House of Representatives again passed the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act (H.R. 2187). This act commit $6.4 billion for FY2010 to help states build and renovate schools to improve schools’ teaching and learning climates, health and safety, and energy efficiency. H.R. 2187 would save school districts billions in energy costs while reducing asthma and other environmentally linked health problems. The legislation now must be considered by the Senate, where it failed to pass in 2008.
Tip: check out our “Greenbacks for Green Schools” compilation for more ideas on saving money by going green.
Beyond Buying: Other Environmentally Friendly Options
1. Recycle or responsibly dispose of used building materials – carpet take-back programs, computer take-back programs, and county programs to recycle used cement, used paint, and other materials.
2. Fix water leaks. Repair water leaks and leaky toilets. Install water aerators and automatic shut-off devices on faucets. Use low-flow shower heads and timer shut-off devices to reduce water use during showers. Install toilet dams on older models.
3. Energy conservation programs – Promote a “turn it off” campaign and get teachers and kids involved with saving energy. Learn how with Alliance to Save Energy “Green Schools” Program.
Why Buy Green? - Green Building and Healthy Indoor Environmental Quality
School buildings have an enormous impact on health and the environment. The US Department of Energy states that more than $6 billion in energy is being used in our schools annually, with 25 percent, or about $1.5 billion, wasted on energy inefficiencies. In most school districts across the nation, utilities are the second largest budget item after personnel related items. Schools also use a tremendous amount of water everyday, requiring water for their heating and cooling systems, restrooms, drinking water faucets, locker rooms, cafeteria, laboratories, outdoor playing fields and lawns. Furthermore, in California alone, school districts dispose of a huge amount of waste annually – approximately 764,000 tons per year.
Indoor air quality is another significant problem. Students, faculty and staff spend 85-90% of their day indoors, where the indoor air quality can be up to 100 times worse than outdoors. Paint, carpet, furniture and other indoor products may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can often result in negative impacts on health, such as cancer, central nervous system and organ damage, and asthma and respiratory ailments. Natural light, good acoustics and adequate fresh air are key components for healthy indoor environmental quality. Improving air quality has shown to result in fewer sick days and one recent study of school districts in California showed that students progressed 20% faster on math tests and 26% faster on reading tests than those with little daylight. Other indoor air quality improvements included higher test scores, increased average daily attendance, lower operation costs, improved teacher satisfaction and retention, decreased liability, and reduced environmental impacts.
“Green” or “high-performance” buildings include schools with a significant portion of green and sustainable actual building materials and systems. These “green schools” have incorporated high energy efficiency and water conservation measures; used materials with recycled content and low toxic emissions and off-gassing; established recycling and compost space and bins; developed plans for sustainable operations and maintenance including indoor environmental quality; created plans for resusing materials and resources and analyzed the building site for access to transportation, open space and wildlife habitat. Not only have green schools been shown to improve attendance and performance but they provide environmental benefits such as protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, improving water quality, reducing solid waste, and conserving natural resources like water and energy. According to the US Green Building Council, green schools:
Moreover, green schools save money. According to a 2006 study by Greg Kats of Capital-E, green schools cost less than 2% more than conventional schools (or about $3 per square foot) but provide financial benefits that are 20 times as large (about $71 per square foot). On average, green schools save $100,000 per year – enough to hire two new teachers, buy 200 new computers or purchase 5,000 new textbooks. And if all new school construction and school renovations went green starting today, energy savings alone would total more than $20 billion over the next 10 years. A study of Chicago and Washington, D.C., schools found that better school facilities can add 3 to 4 percentage points to a school’s standardized test scores, even after controlling for demographic factors.
- Use 33% less energy.
- Save 32% more water.
- Reduce solid waste by 74%.
Green Buying Tools
"Environmentally Preferable Purchasing" or "Green Purchasing" means integrating environmental and health factors into all procurement policies and decisions. Green purchasing can also save money, protect students and staff, and reduce liability—something schools everywhere should care about.
The following tools will help you get started: