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‘On average, green schools save USD 100,000 a year on operating costs’

Fatima de la Cerna of Climate Control Middle East in conversation with Marisa Long, PR & Communications Director of The United States Green Building Council (USGBC), about its Center for Green Schools, a programme founded in Washington, DC in 2010

| | May 10, 2015 | 3:15 pm
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What underlying factors prompted the USGBC to establish the Center for Green Schools?
The Center for Green Schools was established to drive the transformation of all schools into sustainable and healthy places to live, learn, work and play. USGBC saw the potential to provide significant support to the green building movement by focusing expertise and energy on the work already being done in schools, and by creating new pathways to broaden the discussion around sustainability in education and to advance our understanding of what makes a green school such a worthwhile investment.

What are the programme’s objectives? What broad goals do you hope to achieve with it?
The Center works directly with teachers, students, administrators, elected officials and communities to create programmes, resources and partnerships that transform all schools into healthy learning environments. To achieve this overarching objective, the Center works to encourage schools to improve indoor air quality, increase the use of daylighting in classrooms, incorporate alternative energy sources and embed environmental stewardship into the curriculum.

What positive impact has the programme had in terms of youth development?
The impact of green schools on students, teachers, staff and whole communities is significant. Students are better able to focus and retain information when they learn in an environment filled with natural daylight and fresh air. Classrooms designed with acoustics in mind make it easier for students to hear teachers and each other. A green school provides an environment that lessens distractions, encourages participation and instils a sense of pride and importance in all of its students.

What is the framework to ensure continuous vigil and remedial action, as opposed to a one-time effort?
LEED-certified schools allow students and teachers to engage with the systems and components that make their buildings green. The Center for Green Schools also places significant emphasis on the ongoing educational practices that are needed to maintain a truly green learning environment outside of just obtaining LEED certification, because schools are especially important places for teaching young people what good environmental stewardship means in their daily lives.

Are schools required to maintain their facilities, as per the certification criteria, over a certain number of years?
Depending on the rating system for which they achieved LEED certification, some schools are not required to recertify their buildings (although USGBC highly encourages it), but any school that reaches LEED certification for operation and maintenance is required to recertify every five years. Does it cost more for a school to get a LEED-rated building? If so, is that a deterrent?

There are fees associated with certification, but it does not have to cost more for a school to become certified. Green schools are also healthier and more sustainable, and they can save money over time.

How are the costs justified? How are the benefits communicated to the different stakeholders?
On average, in the United States, green schools save USD 100,000 per year on operating costs. In many places, that’s enough money to hire two new teachers, buy 200 new computers or purchase 5,000 new textbooks for students. If all new US school construction and renovation went green today, the total energy savings alone would be USD 20 billion over the next 10 years. These figures are communicated to communities, parents and voters through public forums, research studies, school-sponsored events and publications and, of course, the Center for Green Schools’ outreach efforts.

Editor’s Note:
Climate Control Middle East follows British English. This story, however, retains American English spelling, where applicable, to ensure compliance with proper nouns.

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