Understanding LEED and Education: How Schools Can Become Greener

LEED school building

Given the link between energy efficiency and productivity, it’s easy to understand why so many schools have started investing heavily in green design principles and energy efficiency over the last decade.

The United States is now home to thousands of ‘green schools’ – schools that buck the trend throughout the 1970s and 80s of creating ‘sick buildings’ and instead are focused on creating energy efficient, sustainable learning environments.

In this blog post, we’ll look at the progress that’s been made in green schools, how schools can become greener, and why taking LEED principles seriously is such an important step for today’s schools and colleges.

The low cost of becoming greener

How much more do you think it costs to build a green school? While many people estimate a 15-20% increase on the cost of building a standard school, the reality is that green schools only cost 2-3% more to build than average.

Over time, this small increase in expenditure becomes a net saving. As green schools use less energy and cost less to maintain, they produce a significant saving for both the school itself and, in the case of public schools, the community.

Understanding LEED for schools

LEED ratings, which are usually applied to commercial developments and public buildings, are also used to define and measure the sustainability and eco-friendly design of schools.

The Center for Green Schools goes into detail on the characteristics of LEED and how they can apply to schools. LEED itself measures the quality of a building in a range of different categories and metrics, including:

– Energy savings
– Water efficiency
– Sustainable land use
– Improved air quality
– Stewardship of natural resources

Becoming LEED certified is a major step in the right direction for today’s schools, indicating that they’re environmentally conscious, focused on sustainability and interested in becoming as energy efficient and waste-free as possible.

How energy efficiency improves focus

The most well-known benefits of energy efficiency tend to be focused on savings and environmental improvement. We’re all aware of the energy that’s saved in a green school, but are we aware of the immense benefits for learning?

We’ve looked at the relationship between daylight and learning before, finding a clear link (one that’s backed up by scientific research) between school classrooms that receive natural sunlight and student productivity and focus.

In addition to improving productivity and focus, natural light (one of the biggest priorities of LEED for schools) improves test scores, reduces distractions and, in some studies, has a positive link to student health and wellbeing.

How can schools become greener?

Becoming a greener school is surprisingly simple and inexpensive. Often, it’s more of a matter of changing habits and adding a new focus on sustainability than simply making changes to your school’s design and construction.

There are hundreds of ways to make your school greener, ranging from the costly and intensive to the simple. Some of the most effective techniques include:

– Creating new rules and standards to encourage students and staff members to be less wasteful regarding energy and water.
– Install energy efficiency daylighting in classrooms to improve productivity and focus while reducing your school’s energy consumption.
– Replace outdated, energy inefficient appliances and devices with new Energy Star equipment that uses energy more efficiently.
– Prioritize green design and energy efficiency in new classrooms, buildings and other developments on your school grounds.

Becoming more energy efficient offers a combination of short-term benefits in focus and productivity and long-term benefits in the form of lower bills, a greater focus on sustainability and significantly reduced waste.

From higher test scores to reduced energy consumption, the benefits of becoming a green school are obvious. It’s time for your school to make energy efficiency a focus today.

Image Courtesy of: MaxPhoto / Shutterstock.com

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