Response from Rick Fedrizzi to the Fourth USA Today Article Attacking Green Buildings | U.S. Green Building Council
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Statement from Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, USGBC, Response to the Fourth USA Today Article Attacking Green Buildings

Washington, DC (Dec. 11, 2012) – USA Today has once again written an article attacking green building, deliberately ignoring information we provided and cherry picking data that misleads readers. The story is unbalanced and purposely attempts to impugn LEED despite the fact that it has helped lead quantified best practices in designing, constructing and operating all our buildings, including our nation’s schools.

Our kids deserve schools that enhance their ability to learn by providing more daylight, better acoustics and cleaner, fresher air. But too many of our schools are dark, dingy places filled with airborne toxins and worse. Our schools need improvement and green schools are the answer. Green schools emphasize high indoor air quality, remove toxic materials and products and reduce CO2 emissions. Green schools offer welcoming learning environments that lessen distractions and encourage student participation. On average, green schools use 33% less energy and 32% less water than conventionally constructed schools, significantly reducing utility costs. These are facts.

A LEED certification of new construction means that every aspect of the building design and the construction process was better than standard practice, better than minimum code requirements, and third party verified to be real. Building owners, be they private sector leaders like Starbucks, Target, Wells Fargo and PNC Bank or state, federal and local governments, find value in LEED certification because it validates that they got what they paid for through the design and construction process.

We have repeatedly explained to USA Today that USGBC is a 501c3 non-profit and we have a specific rating system for the on-going performance of buildings — LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance — that is not mentioned here or in any of the other articles. This is where and how true performance happens.

Although LEED is not the only way to improve or green a school, LEED is helping put money back into classrooms around the country and can make a tremendous impact on student health, school operational costs and the environment. Today, nearly 3,000 K-12 school projects participating in LEED are saving energy, water and precious resources, reducing waste and carbon emissions, creating jobs, saving money, driving innovation and providing healthier, more comfortable spaces for children to learn, play and grow.

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. USGBC works toward its mission of market transformation through its LEED green building program, robust educational offerings, a nationwide network of chapters and affiliates, the annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, and advocacy in support of public policy that encourages and enables green buildings and communities. For more information, visit and connect on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Total 32 commentsLeave a comment

President and Co-Founder, Bernheim + Dean, Inc.

In reading the USA Today article dated December 11th 2012 I am struck by the lack of emphasis on human health in the school environment. Firstly let me emphasize that the USGBC, through its programs and LEED Green Building Rating System, fully support healthy and comfortable learning environments in schools. It is important to note that children's bodies are developing during their years in school and therefore they should study in chemically clean environments. Chemical and volatile organic compound exposure during their early years has a strong potential to lead to chronic health impacts such as allergies, asthma, and more seriously cancer.

It is to the USGBC's leadership and credit that LEED for New Construction recognizes with credit points the use of low and no-Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) content and emitting building products, and LEED for Existing Buildings, Operations and Maintenance recognizes with credit points the use of low and no-Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) content and emitting building cleaning agents. The building product manufacturers have responded by providing new and improved products that meet these requirements at no additional cost to the school districts. This drives improved indoor environments.

As a School Board member, Past National PTA President, Parent, Grand-Parent and Construction Professional I must share my support for the USGBC's Green Schools campaign.

The numbers speak for themselves, school buildings that are more environmentally secure, safe, healthy and technologically equal provide the tax payers long term savings while insuring that our children have a quality learning environment.

I have visited schools across this country where local officials have found themselves having to teach children in building where the walls were falling apart, the heat systems will not work, the windows are not secure and we expect performance to be top drawer? We need school building improvement to take hold today, not tomorrow, and the USGBC offers quality best practices for the end result we all want, a quality learning environment.

I encourage parents to research the information and get involved in the conversation.

Chuck Saylors
Taylors, SC

Bibb County School District in Macon, GA built two replacement high schools that opened in 2009. Southwest HS is LEED Certified and Central HS is expected to also soon receive LEED Certified status. Both have about 200,000 sf, were designed for 1000 students with core spaces for 1200 and were master planned for future expansion. Both were constructed according to the LEED for Schools Application Guide.

According to the energy model for Southwest HS, the baseline building would have annual energy costs of $331,176. The actual costs are $236,565. This is a 28.6% reduction in costs over the same school that is designed simply to meet codes.

According to the energy model for Central HS the baseline building would have annual energy costs of $344,771. The actual costs are $180,516. This is a 47.6% reduction in costs over the same school that is designed simply to meet codes.

Custodial costs have also been reduced due to the polished concrete floors that do not require periodic stripping & waxing.

But, as has been pointed out in other comments above, a high performance school is not limited to reducing the energy usage or operational costs. Let's look more closely at Southwest HS for other indicators.

98% of the construction waste was diverted from the landfill. The former buildings were deconstructed and all concrete, CMU, brick & pavement remained on site to be ground & reused in substrate for roads and underlayment for pipes. Doors, windows, ACT, white boards & other materials & equipment were donated to charity and shipped to Haiti to replace a school demolished by a hurricane. These efforts created an upfront savings to the district of close to $1M.

Keep in mind this was a replacement school with the same students and faculty. Below is a comparision of the '08-'09 school year in the previous building and '09-'10 year in the new building. These numbers came straight from the GA Dept of Ed school report card.

Teacher sick events (full or part day) - reduced by 27%

Teacher sick hours - reduced by 21%

% of graduates entering college/technical - increased 10.7%

% of students passing end-of-course tests
Algebra - 12% increase
U.S. History 4% increase
Physical Science 2% increase

If we single out just the girls we see a remarkable difference.
Algebra - 25% increase
U.S. History - 6% increase

These are the stats.

President, American Federation of Teachers

The AFT welcomes the opportunity to support the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, especially the LEED for Schools rating system. Since the program’s inception in 1993, we have admired USGBC for its vision to develop a coherent system for construction and major renovation in an increasingly challenging environment.

Over the years, the AFT has assisted our members, their students and parents as they address school conditions that range from being uncomfortable to threatening their health and well-being. We also have been concerned about wasted energy costs, and we have pushed for effective and efficient operations and regular maintenance in order to save money and redirect it to classrooms.

Our efforts to improve environmental conditions in schools are not focused exclusively on existing school infrastructure; they extend to the uneven and often poor quality of conventional school construction. We’ve witnessed too many new schools that have been poorly designed and constructed, and lacked any third-party oversight or commissioning.

From our vantage point, the USGBC approach of third-party certification offers a powerful and coordinated approach that will help end the poor design and construction practices that continue to plague schools today. The system is a road map for significantly improved conditions, including natural daylighting, environmental quality and good acoustics. Teachers in these buildings tell us their students are happier and more productive.

USGBC is not an insular organization. It continues to refine the LEED system, and it actively seeks input from stakeholders who are not necessarily builders and designers. The system is dynamic and responsive to changes in building technology as well as to addressing issues raised by the education community.

School districts do not always adopt genuine operations and maintenance plans to keep new green schools truly “green.” This disappoints those of us who would like to see these buildings be energy efficient and environmentally sound. We cannot hold the LEED system responsible for school districts and owners that don’t adhere to good maintenance practices once they have possession of the building.

The AFT is heartened that the USGBC is trying to encourage better stewardship of these buildings by school districts. This will take some effort, but we know that the USGBC actively will promote a major shift in the way many school districts have maintained their buildings.

We understand that there is some skepticism about the USGBC’s LEED system. Some believe the system overpromises the benefits of using it—in other words, that LEED certification is not a good investment. We would disagree. The USGBC and other third-party certification systems such as the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) have made a quantum leap in establishing standards for school building design and construction, much like what has been done to establish academic standards for students.

Randi Weingarten
American Federation of Teachers

Editor in Chief, Green Technology

Today, we know that we can build schools that don’t waste electricity and water. We can build schools that eliminate materials with the potential to make teachers and students sick. We can build schools whose lighting and acoustics improve student performance. We can limit the number of resources that are wasted in the construction process.

What reason could there be to build any other kind of school? We are long past the point of sustaining the illusion that there is an unlimited amount of natural capital “out there,” that our bodies can sustain unlimited exposure to foreign chemicals with no consequences, or that we don’t need every strategy we can find to improve educational outcomes.

Uncertainty about the importance of green schools has its roots in the same kinds of confusions and misrepresentations that complicate public discussions about all aspects of sustainability.
We are living creatures, and every aspect of our lives involves relationships and exchanges with ecosystems and other life forms. No one would breathe polluted air or drink contaminated water by choice. No one would prefer a world without healthy oceans and rivers, flourishing plant and animal life, or an abundance of the natural resources that we require for our survival.

Debate and controversy begin only when we realize that we have set a dangerous course that requires us to change the way we do things, and that these changes may cost money.

In the short term, a “green” school might cost more – but numerous studies have demonstrated that this is not inevitable. The fact is, what was “green” a few years ago is common practice today. This cycle is certain to repeat and intensify, reducing costs and increasing benefits.

Schools are not just buildings. They represent our hope for the future, our determination to do right by our most cherished “resource.” From this perspective, the biggest reason to build green schools is their potential to help students gain insights and skills that can help them navigate the very real challenges of expanding population and reduced resources. Neglecting to do this, whatever the justification, might be the most unsustainable decision of all.

Carl Smith
Editor in Chief
Green Technology

Research Associate, Colorado State University - Fort Collins

The research methods in the USA Today article appear not only incomplete, but biased and misleading. Let us first consider simple logic - If instances of asthma in schools are reduced due to better indoor air quality, it follows that absenteeism would also be reduced. If absenteeism is reduced it follows that academic achievement would increase. This is very straight forward reasoning and is the basis for assertions that a green school may have a positive effect on student achievement. However, we know that verifying this cause and effect relationship in a school environment is very difficult. Countless variables influence student achievement and to isolate the influence of one requires controlled experiments or hefty sample sizes. The research community is working on this. But in the meantime, can we all agree that improving the student learning environment through better air quality, daylighting, acoustics, and non-toxic materials is not only a good thing, but a moral imperative?

Measuring the efficiency of school facilities is not as straight forward as it might seem. Simply looking at total consumption is an incomplete analysis. What is the total square footage? How many computers are in the building? Does the school have cooking facilities and walk-in freezers? These questions must be considered in order to make an equitable comparison of energy efficiency. This is why these are considered in an ENERGY STAR evaluation. Finally, building management, maintenance, and the energy consumption behavior of occupants often play an even greater role in building efficiency than design. In the future, let us agree to use more complete evaluations of energy efficiency before drawing conclusions or generalizing the poor performance of one green school to the whole of the green school building stock.

Poudre School District

Based on the multitude of highly reliable and proven resources available to us, PSD has been able to build high performing schools for the past decade or more. These schools are more comfortable at all times of the year, have less ambient noise in teaching areas, have high quality natural lighting, outstanding views from over 90% of the spaces in the school, and are very energy efficient. There are many other outstanding examples of high performing schools in CO as well. As an energy manager, my highest priority is to reduce the amount of money spent on utility costs and devote as many of our limited resources toward educating our students. These school make my job much easier. PSD has proven many times now that you don’t have to spend more for high performing schools and they do perform through a process of collaboration, integrated design, energy modeling, commissioning, staff and student engagement and awareness, dedicated and skilled operations and maintenance staff, and annual accountability through ENERGY STAR certification.

Based on the link below to our BOE Energy Conservation Update, please see for yourself how our schools compare (old and new):

Principal, SfL+a Architects, PA

I worked with a school Superintendent many years ago – great client, well-respected, on the Governor’s council, leading school district in the state, etc…..when standardized testing was first being implemented. His statement was simple: “Standardized testing is the last desperate gasp of an obsolete system.”

The critical point here is that we are still, 15 years later, using the same testing standards that are based on outmoded rote regurgitation to assess performance – while pedagogy has moved miles away, embracing project-based learning, modality assessment, cognitive benchmarking and the more sophisticated migration to “social media” as a fundamental learning process through technology-rich environments. We design schools today with distance and on-line learning centers, project rooms, and integrated technology infrastructure to support educational strategies and enhance learning. Our student’s today are “tapping in” to their learning environment on both personal and global levels. They respond to the learning connections – our opportunity is to build these learning connections through relevant, real-life experiences delivered in an appropriate learning environment.

The issue is that it is the tests that are the differential – they’re simply unreliable as a testament to actual student performance in today’s educational environment. High performance buildings provide quality learning environments that enhance the performance and productivity of students. Indoor air quality keeps students in school, not home sick. Daylighting studies support increased performance by as much as twenty percent. It’s absolute irrelevant to argue progress or decline without a reliable basis of true assessment. I would submit however, that without the advantages of high performance buildings, the test scores of today’s students will be even lower as pedagogy continues to move in a different direction. If we simply give up on high performance facilities providing the quality learning environments, where will we be then?

We have just completed construction on the Rocky Mount High School in Rocky Mount, NC and will be submitting documentation shortly for LEED Gold Certification. The new Rocky Mount High School is a two-story, 248,000 sf facility serving 1,600 students that reflects the district’s vision of a contemporary high-performance educational facility. From the outset, the district was very interested in creating an energy-efficient and sustainable facility for their new high school project. Illustrating the district’s commitment, while in the design phases for the high school project, the district was awarded the prestigious 2009 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award. The district came to SfL+a Architects with a list of concepts for the new high school that focused on what they understood in energy-efficient design principals. Many items were consistent with USGBC principles from the outset and using LEED for Schools 2009, the project framework grew into a comprehensive vision, where the concept for creating a high-performing facility that will provide long-term energy savings for the district was given context and organization. The LEED for Schools 2009 checklist structure allowed the project team to explore and develop a comprehensive approach to the project that both addressed and enhanced the district’s vision and goals for the project. The ultimate result will be a highly sustainable, high performance building that will set the standard in Rocky Mount and other North Carolina school districts for years to come. The project is in the final stages of commissioning and is due for submission for LEED Gold certification. Upon certification, the Rocky Mount High School will be the first LEED Gold high school in the state of North Carolina.

USGBC - Texas Gulf Coast Chapter

We now know what they are thinking and that is always a fantastic strategy.

Our approach with our LEED school districts and our collaborators is to focus on our long-term strategies that will build the strength of Texas green schools. If nothing else, this story allowed groups who had never spoken before about green schools to create new alliances to support each other. We certainly gained some today here in Texas and Houston!

The article is focused on a simple measure that fails to account for how the building is actually used over time. It also only reviews one single year, a snapshot in the building’s history. The article has built its premise off of a broad brush that claims one ratio is the ultimate determinant for how a building operates or improves the learning environment. A more fair way to consider the argument would be review the energy use over a time period and consider how different variables might affect performance, which the article does not seek to do. Some examples are stated below.

For example, is the building used on the weekends? Is it rented to the community at night? Are there technologies that were added after the LEED certification? Did some outside environmental issues occur, such as a flooding, drought or a heat wave? None of these variables or the others like them was explored. This story also seems to claim that LEED is supposed to be immune to variables like these.

Finally, energy use per student is poor measure of a building’s energy efficiency. Using this standard, a school could artificially raise its energy efficiency score simply by crowding more children onto the campus, thereby lowering the energy use per students.

The issue of whether or not a district or community wants to have incentives for energy-efficiencies in their school building operations and construction requirements is an individual one that cannot or should not be judged simplistically either. Many factors go into whether or not an incentive for sustainability is given and how. These factors can include overall quality of life indicators or other indicators that affect the learning environment. This is why the LEED checklist is created to address some conservation measures and some environmental ones. Therefore, LEED is more than an energy-efficiency measurement but it is also more than an environmentally-friendly building standard. It is a holistic, consensus-based system that attempts to find a mainstream application to push the expectations the industry and community has of its built environments. This is the great strength of LEED. The community created a building system for the community that the community can bear.

In Houston, we believe there is a place for any and all benchmarks and systems that increase sustainability in the learning environment. We have LEED schools, CHPS schools and even hybrids of both within our chapter boundaries. We even have schools that are both CHPS and LEED certified. We wholeheartedly believe that the two do not have to compete but can work together to benefit overall learning.

We are working on a long-term relationship with HISD and are organizing a statewide schools effort with the other three USGBC chapters in Texas. Several tangible benefits will come out of this endeavor. One will be a statewide collection of best practices in Texas green schools. Building on the idea that all sustainability systems have a place in Texas, this collection will not only include a review of LEED schools but also other schools that have achieved other building ratings. It is our hope that whether or not a school district board chooses LEED it chooses sustainability in the manner that works for their community and their students.

Executive Director, Institute for the Built Environment, Colorado State University - Fort Collins

While a Prius can get poor gas mileage if not operated correctly, the many gas guzzlers on our roads will never operate as efficiently as a well operated Prius. i.e.….a well-built and operated green school will ALWAYS outperform the thousands of traditional schools built throughout the U.S. before the introduction of LEED, CHPS, and green schools.

An objective journalist would seek to show the true range of green schools, including the many schools that are performing better than traditional schools, and the many schools that are performing even better than originally modeled. For instance, Kinard Middle School, built in 2006 in Fort Collins, CO to meet the Poudre School District’s Sustainable Design Guidelines, was Colorado’s most efficient school in 2007 when it operated at 28 KBTUs/sq/yr. It continues to perform even better than the first year of operation, due to tweaking by the building operators and a culture of sustainability throughout the student body.

Fossil Ridge High School was the 3rd public high school in the country to be LEED certified. It was built for $128/sq ft, among the least expensive schools built in 2004. The school has consistently operated over 50% more efficient than the ASHRAE energy standard in place at the time of construction. Fossil Ridge is not an isolated case – it happened in a district that built 8 schools between 2000-2008, each of them green, built within tight budgets, and continuing to operate well above regional energy averages. When a district works in an integrated way with project teams to set high goals and follow sustainable design guidelines such as LEED and aggressively monitors performance, the result is economical, energy efficient, healthy, daylit places to learn and teach.

Brian Dunbar LEED Fellow

Executive Director, Institute for the Built Environment
Colorado State University

There is no question that we need to move toward green schools. Being environmentally sensitive makes utter sense at a time when the earth’s resources need preservation. Our nation’s students also need green schools now more than ever. When students walk into schools that are falling apart, run down, known for making kids and staff sick because of poor indoor air quality, it sends the message “I don’t matter.”

Green schools offer many attributes that send the message “I matter.” Not only are they walking into a school that is aesthetically stimulating, they are walking into a building that was designed to provide optimal indoor air quality and multiple opportunities for hands-on learning. Being able to harvest vegetables in school gardens or track utility cost savings are just a few ways that green schools provide students with the skills and knowledge that they need to prosper in the 21st Century.

We know that green schools in isolation do not solve all problems and maintaining a green school after construction is imperative. While there are a number of factors that affect student achievement, children who have the opportunity to learn in a green school more likely have a greater learning potential than students walking into crumbling buildings. They are more likely to look back in 20 years and say, “I mattered.”

Jerry Newberry, Executive Director, NEA Health Information Network

Vice President of Sustainability, Nichols

It is really too bad that the writers of this article haven’t visited some of the schools to see the excitement and the positive difference those buildings have made in the students and teachers that occupy them. It is easy to talk about the operational performance of a building, it isn’t as easy to give credit for many of those attributes that directly affect the health of the kids and staff that occupy the building and the positive learning environment that they have created. So with that in mind I would like to share a couple of operational statistics from LEED schools in West Michigan.

I direct your attention to this video which is on the USGBC Building Performance Partnership web page. Right around 1.3 minutes into the video you will hear from the Energy Manager at Forest Hills Public Schools who will tell you that of his 27 buildings that are all Energy Star qualified, his four LEED buildings out perform all of his others.

In 2010 we did a study on the energy consumption in many of our LEED buildings in West Michigan which included four K-12 school buildings. The EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager was used for this analysis. Of the four K‐12 school buildings in the study, the low score was 77 and the high was 95, with an average score of 89. The low score was for a major renovation of an older building.

We continue to capture this type of information from our LEED buildings and will be launching a second phase of our research soon.

Renae Hesselink, LEED AP BD+C
Chair of the Green School Committee
USGBC West Michigan Chapter

Executive Director, Solar One

Mr. Frank’s wildly unbalanced article makes the preposterous claim that there is no relationship between the “environmentally friendly” design of a school building and improved energy efficiency. This is like arguing there is no link between the design of a car and fuel efficiency. In 1975 the average car in the US got 13.5 mpg. Today it is 29.7 mpg. Redesign made all the difference in the world.

A school building, which involves hundreds or thousands of stakeholders, is in many ways more complex than a car and its driver. Education is the key to unleashing the energy efficiency potential of a school’s design. All the stakeholders must come together, armed with knowledge and awareness, and collectively change their behaviors in order to maximize efficiency outcomes.

Since 2011, Solar One has implemented an education program that aims to do this – the Green Design Lab™ (GDL) – in 22 NYC public school buildings, many with seriously outdated electrical and mechanical systems. The goal of GDL is to inspire students (grades 4-12) to come up with ways to improve the energy efficiency of their school.

GDL helped to reduce kWh usage in these 22 school buildings by an average of 8.2%. One saved a whopping 17%. The schools save thousands of dollars on their yearly electric costs. There was nothing pie-in-the-sky about these outcomes. Low-cost steps can make a big difference in a system as large as the NYC public schools. An 8% reduction on its $250 million a year energy bill would result in $20 million in savings.

GDL proved behavior change is possible (remember when no one used their seat belt?). One can only imagine how much more these schools could have reduced their electric bills if they were redesigned to LEED required electrical and mechanical upgrades.

Chris Collins
Executive Director
Solar One

Representative, Illinois House of Representatives

Gov. Pat Quinn and I visited Tarkington School, Chicago's first LEED-certified school, where test scores have improved 5% a year and students report decreased usage of inhalers for asthma symptoms, according to the principal. I enthusiastically support healthy, green schools for our children because asthma is the number one cause of absenteeism in Illinois.

President/C.E.O., Evangelical Environmental Network

As evangelical Christians, we strongly believe in protecting our children from environmental toxins and constructing green schools remains central to our ministry. LEED designs employ the best design practices to reduce volatile chemicals from construction materials, provide landscape plans reducing fertilizers and pesticides, and lower energy consumption – the current largest source of pollution. Each day we attack our children with a multitude of toxins. LEED designs reduce the pollution linked to children diseases such as asthma, ADHD, cancers, and autism, to name just a few. We are moving in the right direction with more green schools, and my reality simply doesn’t wash with Mr. Frank’s recent USA Today Article. Pennsylvania, my home state, has some of the best examples. The students love them, there are less sick days for both students and teachers, the energy costs are lower, and by the way – the most recent LEED schools have construction costs equal to or lower than conventional built schools. Our ministry in caring for God’s creation focuses on protecting human health, especially our children. Green schools guard our kids, and don’t let anyone say differently.

Representative, Missouri House of Representatives

Sustainable, energy efficient buildings are a good use of taxpayer money. St. Louis Community College’s LEED Gold building at Wildwood, lowered energy and water costs 33%. Student attendance is generally better in a LEED school because ventilation is improved and non-toxic products are used. The costs of building ‘green’ are now comparable to traditional construction costs. Building green is a win win.

Representative, Colorado House of Representatives

As an educator, I know firsthand that there is no single solution to improving our nation’s educational system, but at the same time, I’ve also seen the impact green schools can have on students, teachers and staff. I work hard in Colorado to ensure our schools are as effective as they can be for our children, while also being as fiscally responsible as possible to our taxpayers. I’ve seen how tools such as LEED have helped schools save money and achieve our shared goals.

State Representative, Oregon House District 42

High performing green schools make all the difference for students, teachers, and taxpayers. When state governments and school districts are looking for ways to do more with less, this is a common sense approach. It isn't ideological - it's just good policy and a good investment.

Vice President for Education and Training, National Wildlife Federation

US Green Building Council’s LEED standard has proven valuable to National Wildlife Federation’s sustainability and environmental education work at many of the more than 5000 schools we work with across the United States. We have witnessed significant energy savings at LEED-certified schools that participate in our Eco-Schools USA and Schoolyard Habitat programs, and continue to support adoption of green school building standards along with green facility management practices and environmental education.

Kentucky State Representative

I represent the hardworking people of Warren County, Kentucky, where I’m proud that the schools in my district have literally saved millions of dollars building to LEED standards while also cutting their operations and maintenance costs. I'm not an environmentalist, but as someone who also works in the construction industry, I know firsthand what kind of savings LEED certified buildings bring to owners, both public and private. I’ve seen other school systems and higher education campuses across our state embracing LEED because it is the fiscally smart thing to do for our taxpayers. At the end of the day, green schools are providing healthier learning environments for our children, in buildings that are designed for maximum efficiency.


Green building is simply the common sense integration of superior technology, smarter economics, thoughtful design, careful landscaping, and foresight to improve the human experience in buildings of all kinds. Properly designed, built, and maintained, high performance buildings do save money by eliminating otherwise wasted energy, water, and materials. They do improve productivity and conviviality because they are great places designed for real people. Well-designed green schools, specifically, do promote learning by being interesting, inviting, sunshine filled spaces in which architecture and curriculum merge. Our 12-year experience with the Lewis Center at Oberlin has been successful far beyond expectations. As an early model of ecological design it has proved to be an exciting learning environment that has engaged hundreds of students in maintaining and improving energy and water systems, developing building dashboard technology, and managing the surrounding landscape. It is now the model for a larger city-wide plan in which green building, education, ecological design, economic revitalization, and climate neutral energy technologies become reinforcing parts of a sustainable urban life. Green building is, in other words, a large and practical step toward a sustainable, resilient, and decent future. 

Custodian, Brownsville Elementary School

As a school custodian I can see the benefits of working in a green school from not only a custodial standpoint but from a student and staff standpoint, too. Working in a green school would not only allow custodial staff to work with state-of-the-art equipment and technologies, it would allow for us to see the satisfaction and comfort of students and staff every day. Teachers, secretaries, counselors, and other schools staff would reap the benefits of superior indoor air quality and log fewer complaints of illness and discomfort. Every custodian wants to see this and know that their building is one reason that students and staff like to come to school every day.

President/CEO, National School Supply & Equipment Association

The National School Supply and Equipment Association is committed to creating healthy and sustainable learning environments for students of all ages. We support the USGBC Center for Green Schools initiatives to raise the awareness of the current status of learning environments and work to transform our schools into places that facilitate better learning. Creating learning spaces that inspire creativity while promoting healthy living will ultimately improve student outcomes.

Consultant, Atkins

The aproach that we used for the green building is: 1st, consider the real project condition and clients' requirements, 2nd, propose and implement the green strategies, 3rd, the LEED certification will be achieved naturally.
We should not be LEED oriented, but, to take it as one of testing methods.

CEO, BuildingWise, LLC
Pro Reviewer

As a long time user of LEED and one of the team that wrote LEED Existing Buildings perhaps I’m more jaundiced at what gets written in the press. After all a writer who is intent on ‘dissing’ the subject matter is going to cherry pick data to suit their words…why would anyone expect otherwise?

And of course those in the know just blow a big ‘raspberry’ at them (British word..look it up)

However it's great to read the comments above and hear such stories about how much energy has been saved, how much water etc...but they're just ‘stories’
What we lack is an extensive supportable data set and in a place to be peer reviewed at any time. After all if LEED really does work, as we all know it does…then show them the data!


Since 2012, all Franshion campus construction must be green school. Franshion Properties will create an enforceable and lead construction standard of green campus, which accords with national situations, it will lead the green campus construction. In next three years, Franshion Properties plan to accomplish 12 green campus programs constructing elementary and secondary schools and kindergartens.

Franshion Properties apply series of measures for green schools, such as the green monitoring and the construction of display platform of campus, opening up international learning platform for exchanging of education system, constructing experimental science education demonstration area of low-carbon school, carrying out green courses and experiment subjects, adjusting the plan layout and construction body type to improve nature draught, reinforcing planting technique to ease heat island effect, improving the thermal insulation property of building envelope to ease heat island effect, adding adjustable out shading, resisting solar radiation in summer and usiing sound-absorbing material to reduce the effect of noise.

Franshion Properties wish, more and more enterprises throw themselves into green campus construction. We wish, further cooperation with more school, and developing green campus together. Besides, we wish, further cooperation with international organizations and trade associations, and leading Chinese green campus construction.

Principal, Arup

At this point, 'everybody' knows that the most important factor in keeping energy use low is operation and maintenance. According to the NBI study issued in July 2011, the variation in building energy use due to O&M is over twice as large as any other factor. The problem here is most likely to be that the systems are inadequately operated. Design certainly helps, but without significant occupant education and operator attention, it won't be enough to have great systems. Use LEED EBOM to make sure that you are doing it right, and you will succeed. LEED BD&C only gets you to a point of having the potential to reduce energy costs. LEED has other advantages - IEQ being one of them.

Principal, Thrive Architecture

With ‘gotcha’-style journalism, Frank undermines the tireless efforts of so many well-meaning individuals in the green building community. Simultaneously, he discounts the importance of climate change mitigation, bio-diversity, social justice, the green economy, and other important issues that are nested in the goals of decision-makers around the country.

Conveniently, there is no mention of Heschong Mahone’s peer-reviewed analysis of green classroom features. Their study demonstrates that daylight, views to nature, and good acoustic performance are positively correlated to student achievement. (Not surprisingly, their research also demonstrates that glare, poor ventilation, and poor indoor air quality are negatively correlated to student test scores.)

It’s no secret, either, that green buildings can exhibit widely divergent energy performance. I am reminded of Nadav Malin’s Building Green article “Want a Net-Zero Home? Be a Net-Zero Family.” Malin cited an analysis of eight nearly identical LEED Platinum homes built on Martha’s Vineyard. Not surprisingly, energy use depended greatly on occupant behavior. But shockingly, it varied by more than 170%!

So, all other things being equal, how does the performance of a green school compare to that of a conventional school? Our firm’s LEED gold-certified Manassas Park Elementary School (MPES) shares a site with a conventionally-built school ten years older. MPES uses 40% less energy than the adjacent school. And 83% less water. Together these annual savings amount to $79,000 for the school division. The new school performs so well, in fact, that administrators have now moved all summer programs into the school, multiplying their operational savings.

SVP - Sustainability, TRANSWESTERN

Once again, nothing about existing buildings! Build it to LEED, but don’t operate to LEED for Existing Building: Operations & Maintenance will equal poor performance.

I recently worked with a suburban Milwaukee school district that underwent a $4.5 million upgrade for a single school, and upped its Energy Star rating by only 2 points -- from 52 to 54! The upgrades were well designed, with great equipment and controls. After using the LEED for Existing Buildings rating system, the project bumped its ENERGY STAR rating to 83 and has already saved nearly $50,000 in energy costs alone! Just one example of the transformation LEED brings to the market.

Construction is the starting point; no building, no matter how well designed will perform without solid proper operations and maintenance. Let’s maybe talk about the Existing Building’s we currently have and how they "must" perform. We will not build our way to maximum efficiency. It’s much easier to point out when a building does not perform as expected with LEED NC, than to look at the deeper issue of how buildings are operated and maintained compared to that design. Let’s remember there is “design and construction – LEED NC” and then there is “operations and maintenance – LEED EB”, maybe talking about both sides would be worthwhile. As an operations person for 30 years, I can tell you LEED indeed improves performance! The USA today article was one sided at best and does not represent what we see in our day to day activities (and bottom lines) as owners and operators of real estate nationally.

Chief Executive Officer, Majora Carter Group

As more and more Americans come to realize that you shouldn't have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one, it's astonishing to see USA Today run Tom Frank's editorial arguing for the opposite of that grassroots and aspirational vision.

I know firsthand that creating better buildings is a fundamental need, especially in America's inner cities where I have seen the impact that a healthy, sustainable built environment can have on children, families, communities, and the economic environment they depend on. Tom Frank's misguided belief that creating better schools doesn't have a direct positive impact on students is misleading and counterproductive.

The 1995 federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) report highlighted the dire need to improve our school facilities and gave a staggering statistic that 15,000 U.S. schools at the time were circulating air that was deemed unfit to breathe. While there is clearly a need for new data on this original report, the anecdotal data and smaller reports since this GAO study have suggested that, on the whole, our nation’s educational facilities are continuing to deteriorate without proper maintenance, and that the real condition of our nation’s educational facilities is uncertain.

Tom's baseless argument that green features, such as increased ventilation and air quality, don't directly impact a student's overall performance and health, is not supported by those who work everyday against inequality within our education system. We know that the poorest school districts have the highest asthma rates and often the lowest graduation rates, and that this isn't a coincidence. We need to do more to push for sustainable schools, not less. A small investment in children's health today will pay back in decades of higher achievement for the next generation - and give some of their parents a job in the meantime!

President, D. Stephenson Construction, Inc.

Since 2000 we have built 90 new and replacement schools in the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida. We recently compared the energy usage of our LEED schools to all of our schools as well as our most recently constructed non-LEED-certified schools. What we found was that our 6 LEED schools are 31% more energy efficient than the district average and 24% more energy efficient than our last 10 non-LEED schools. We are in design or construction for 5 new schools scheduled to open by between now and 2015. Because of our outstanding success with LEED schools all of them will at least be LEED Silver with one slated to be LEED Platinum.

Partner, Director of Sustainability , WRNS Studio

We just completed a Lower Middle School in California – 4 buildings and a new campus. All buildings to be certified – one likely Platinum and Net Zero Energy.

The project is a private school but the cost was below what is a standard cost for California schools. At $350/sf they got photovoltaic on a building, rainwater tank, greywater tank and other wonderful features including outdoor gardens for growing vegetables, outdoor kilns, an art area, etc. The Commissioning is done and our utility PGE is doing metering on the net zero project right now. The project is 85,000 sf of building and 6 acres of land.

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