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U.S. Mayors Support Green Schools Resolution

The U.S. Conference of Mayors last week unanimously supported a resolution that urges Congress to fund K-12 green school projects and research.

At the organization's 75th annual meeting, Mayor T.M. Franklin Cownie of Des Moines, Iowa, introduced the resolution in the wake of a green schools movement taking shape across the country.

More than 30 schools have received LEED certification, while almost 300 others are on a certification waiting list.

"Studies show that children in green schools are healthier and more productive because of improved indoor air quality, lower levels of chemical emissions and a generous provision of natural day lighting," Mayor Cownie said in a statement. "The benefit of cleaner indoor air quality -- a key emphasis of green schools -- have been linked to lower asthma rates, fewer allergies, reduced absenteeism, and increased teacher retention rates."

The U.S. Green Building Council administers the LEED rating system for schools. It emphasizes classroom acoustics, master planning, indoor air quality, mold prevention, energy efficiency and water conservation.

LEED certified green buildings use a third less energy, as much as 50 percent less water, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent, the USGBC said. It estimates that it costs $3 per square foot more to build a green school that a conventional school. Based only on energy savings, the payback begins within one year.

Energy savings alone would total $20 billion during the next 10 years if all new schools and renovations were executed in a green manner, the USGBC said.

Clackamas High School, a green school built in 2002 in Clackamas, Ore., saves an estimated $69,000 in energy costs per year. It cost $117 to per square foot to build the K-12 school, compared to the average $135 to $145 per foot.

There are 6 acres of wetlands available, part of which is used as a learning lab for students.

At Third Creek Elementary School in Statesville, N.C., waterless urinals and low-flow plumbing fixtures have helped lower water use by more than 30 percent below Energy Policy Act of 1992 requirements.

Builders designed a wet pond to serve as both a storm water management facility and an outdoor classroom, in addition to a series of courtyard learning gardens.

Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins, Colo., enjoys $11,500 in annual water savings and is 60 percent more energy efficient.

Green schools also teach a valuable lesson for students, proponents say. Turning all school construction green could create more than 2,000 new jobs annually.

"We're in urgent need of action on this issue, so it's great to see mayors take the lead," said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO and USGBC Founding Chair. "Green schools are healthier for students and teachers, better for the environment, and cost less to operate and maintain. We owe it to our children -- and ourselves -- to make all our schools green."

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