It's the Environment, Stupid.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Connecticut schools suck energy

The New York Times reports that the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic has recently released a study that looked at energy efficiency in Connecticut public schools, concluding that they failed miserably.

"William Leahy, the chief operating officer of the institute, said that about 90 percent of the schools in the state were built at least 25 years ago, when standards for energy efficiency were less stringent. The study analyzed energy bills for 119 of Connecticut’s 1,026 public schools, taking into account the size of the schools and how much of the year they stay open... The report estimated that Connecticut’s public schools spent 35 percent more on energy costs during the last school year than the previous one."

Unfortunately Connecticut isn't the only state with this problem. State, city and county governments are losing money on aging schools all over the country. And even though nearly $20 billion a year is spent on new school construction and renovation, not all schools are being built as energy efficient as possible.

The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) in California is working within that state to ensure that new facilities are built for maximum efficiency and air quality standards. They have done research that shows that High Performance Schools not only save school districts money (it costs 50% less to operate a HPS than a traditionally designed school) but also increase student performance and teacher retention rates.

Even if existing schools are not slated for renovation or new construction, there are low or no-cost measures schools and districts can take. Simple things such as turning lights and computers off in unoccupied rooms, preventive maintenance to stop leaks and moisture that cause mold, using least toxic or non-toxic cleaning chemicals and pesticides, or implementing recycling programs. These actions can also be used as teaching tools in the classroom where students can learn about environmental health and stewardship.

Healthier students, happier teachers, lower operating costs - why aren't more schools being built as high performance schools? Cost shouldn't be an excuse considering school districts pay to operate the schools and anticipate a long lifetime for the buildings, it just seems to make sense.

There are quite a few green school resources online - here's a couple
Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (lists resources)
Collaborative for High Performance Schools
Oregon Green Schools
Wisconsin Green and Healthy Schools Program
Green School Project
Green Schools Initiative

Just saw this on Sustainablog - "Green Guide Names Top Green Schools in the US"


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