The report breaks new ground by demonstrating that green schools - schools designed to be energy efficient, healthy and environmentally friendly -- are extremely cost-effective. Total financial benefits from green schools outweigh the costs 20 to 1. With over $35 billion dollars projected to be spent in 2007 on K-12 construction, the conclusions of this report have far-reaching implications for future school design.
Sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, the American Institute of Architects, the American Lung Association, the Federation of American Scientists and the US Green Building Council, the report includes a detailed analysis of 30 green schools built in 10 states between 2001 and 2006. The analysis demonstrates that the total financial benefits of green schools are 20 times greater than the initial cost, and include energy and water savings, and improved student health and test scores. If all new school construction and school renovations went "green" starting today, energy savings alone would total $20 billion over the next 10 years. Some of the major benefits documented in Greening America's Schools include:
- On average, green schools use 33% less energy and 32% less water than conventional schools, and would improve national security by reducing reliance on imported energy.
- Green schools typically have better lighting, temperature control, improved ventilation and indoor air-quality which contribute to reduced asthma, colds, flu and absenteeism… helping improve learning, test scores and lifetime student earnings.
- Greening all school construction would create over 2000 additional new jobs each year from increased use of energy efficiency technologies.
- Additional benefits calculated in the report include improved teacher retention and a reduction in dangerous air-pollutants that cause respiratory disease and premature mortality.
Specific school findings include:
- The green school in Dedham, MA saved the town $400,000 in new sewer-system infrastructure by reducing stormwater runoff from the school grounds.
A review of five separate studies by Carnegie Mellon University found a 38.5% asthma reduction in buildings - such as green schools - from improved indoor air-quality.
One school district in North Carolina experienced a 33% increase in the percentage of students testing at grade-level for reading and math after moving to a green school.
Study author Greg Kats, a former Director of Finance for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the US Department of Energy, has worked with dozens of corporations, developers, state agencies and organizations to arrive at conservative cost/benefit comparisons of different environmental and building strategies. In Greening America's Schools, Kats emphasizes that the financial benefits of green schools are substantially broader than those quantified in the report and include the creation of new educational opportunities, improved equity in education and insurance savings. "Building green schools," he writes, "is more fiscally prudent and lower risk than continuing to build unhealthy, inefficient schools."