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.