On June 19, the Maryland Green Building Council, the body under the Maryland Department of General Services created to guide the state’s green building program, will hold a hearing on the newly released Proposed Guidelines for 21st Century Schools. These guidelines were written for new public school buildings that fall under Maryland’s High Performance Green Building Program.
In 2018, the Maryland Legislature passed the 21st Century School Facilities Act, altering the requirements for new public school buildings and directing public schools to achieve the equivalent of the current version of LEED Silver certification, but without requiring (or prohibiting) independent certification. A public comment period is now open for the council’s new guidelines for implementing this new provision of state law.
USGBC and USGBC Maryland have been engaged in the council’s process over the past several months, to help develop these proposed guidelines.
USGBC's comments on the guidelines show that overall, we agree with their three-pronged approach, leading with the council finding and recommending that “third party certification of high performance building is the ideal and advantageous in most, if not all, instances,” and that pursuing third-party certification such as LEED is preferable and should be prioritized. States and school districts across the country benefit from independent certification processes, which help protect investments in school projects and support schools in achieving high-performing, sustainable projects.
There are also several ways to improve the clarity of the proposed guidelines:
- The proposed alternatives to third-party certification may be unclear to school personnel, who will be charged with following the guidelines. Our comments reflect suggested language for clarification.
- Our comments also reflect a concern that the proposed guidelines refer to and incorporate a number of building systems without a clear analysis to determine and document that the systems are equivalent to achieving LEED Silver, as required by the new law. We recommend some changes to this section that would identify the systems with existing approval vs. those that are candidates but still need to go through the process.
- We urge the council to take this opportunity to make several improvements to its implementation and oversight of the Maryland Green Building Program by providing public tracking of projects and compliance paths and promoting, if not requiring, building energy and water benchmarking. These measures are best practices for providing information to support future refinements to the program and will ultimately optimize benefits for Maryland.
Public school buildings make up a large share of state-owned buildings in Maryland, one of the Top 10 States for LEED. Continuing to achieve high-performing green building certification in K–12 schools and higher education facilities across the state is an important part of continuing Maryland’s history of strong leadership in building and maintaining the highest-performing facilities, saving taxpayers money and supporting healthy learning environments.
Public comments may be submitted until June 18. USGBC urges members to get involved and submit their own comments on the proposed guidelines.
If you have questions, please contact the Advocacy and Policy team.