Lesson for New Rochelle as USA TODAY Survey Casts Doubts on LEED and Green School Initiatives

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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- As New Rochelle schools and municipal government blindly embrace LEED building standards, the latest fad in enviro-chic planning from our overlords at the Green Building Council (i.e, Al Gore, Leonardo DiCapri, Larry David, et al), Thomas Frank of USA TODAY pours a bucket of cold water on the whole thing.

In Green schools: Long on promise, short on delivery, Frank finds lots of hype about the supposed health benefits, learning improvements and cost savings to be had by building LEED-certified schools.

With the inevitable requirement that New Rochelle will soon need to fund school expansion to support the children who have been piling into Bramson-ville developments in downtown New Rochelle. In fact, the school district has already borrowed millions of dollars to fund a green retrofit of school buildings in a deal with Honeywell.

As the City and School District go broke, it will be well to keep it mind, as Frank discovers, "the most comprehensive report on green schools found no studies showing that they improve student learning or teacher success.

Frank quotes an expert from the Brookings Institution, a Democrat think-tank in Washington, D.C. saying "I haven't seen any research indicating that whether a school is green or not makes any difference."

In the article, Frank tells the story of "green" schools in Texas.

Thompson Elementary ranked 205th out of 239 Houston schools in a report last year for the district that showed each school's energy cost per student. Walnut Bend Elementary ranked 155th. A third "green" school, built in 2010, ranked 46th in the report, which a local utility did for the district to find ways of cutting energy costs.

Poor equipment maintenance plagued the schools built in 2007, a problem that districtwide improvements are now addressing, said Gavin Dillingham, the district's energy manager until August.

"People have the mistaken impression that once buildings are LEED-certified, they're always going to run energy-efficiently," Dillingham said. "They don't."

The problems in Houston illustrate the little-discussed uncertainty of "green schools," which promise huge energy savings and rising student performance, but do not always deliver, despite their extra cost.

And the source of all this wonder?

The green-school boom, a powerful and often costly phenomenon, is being driven largely by the Green Building Council, whose promise of student improvement and long-term cost savings has support from environmental and health advocates, teachers unions, school designers and the Department of Education

.

Green Building, National Resources Defense Council, LEED, ACORN, SEIU, ICLEI, etc.

So how does the hype stack up to the reality?

...a USA TODAY review of school-test records, LEED-certification documents and research reports shows little correlation between "green schools" and student performance or energy use. Buildings can get certified by following standard school-construction practice and adding features unrelated to energy use or the interior, such as steps to reduce car trips and water use, ease light pollution and heat reflection, and limit parking capacity and storm-water runoff.

Sadly, the Green Building Council has invaded government like a virus.

In October, USA TODAY reported that thousands of commercial developers have won state and local tax breaks, grants, expedited permitting and waivers from development laws for LEED-certified buildings. More than 200 states, federal agencies and municipalities require LEED certification for public buildings. Roughly 85 cities including Los Angeles, Washington and Boston require LEED for some private buildings in hopes of helping the environment.

Read the entire article and be forewarned.

h/t KL

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

Ken Lewis on Thu, 12/13/2012 - 14:27

I make a living from Green Initiatives but the concept has been hijacked by those who choose only to feel good about proposing and mandating those initiatives. Where are the results?
Along with some of this Green comes a lot of waste and a lot of exaggerations that do not pay back those responsible for the burden of the higher costs of green. Hype does not always deliver the long term payback.
Green today is being sold on face value by people motivated by the process but not always by the results. Although we are making progress on many fronts we have seen this kind of non payback on many projects where the payback is sold but not investigated by Professionals.
There are many great efforts and results but of course there are many selling snake oil. How does one know what we are buying? The only way is to prove out the results long term and to hire Engineers, Architects and Lighting Consultants who have gone through the hype with a fine tooth comb. By cutting corners these results in this USA Today story are the norm. In New Rochelle we have an overzealous Mayor sighing on to green for the sake of green. This in itself is not bad but not doing the work ahead of the dollars you can bet we will see these sames results as written about in USA Today.

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Thu, 12/13/2012 - 19:23

I do not oppose "green", I drive a ULEV, have CF bulbs, recycle, return cans, etc.

What I oppose is slavish, mindless devotion to green that is then exploited by various people to sell crap for twice what it's worth, does not do much if anything and costs consumers and taxpayers real money so certain people can feel morally superior.

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