by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The idea sounds good: Spend more money now on school construction, and reap the rewards later from lower energy costs, increased energy efficiency, and a sense that you’ve helped the environment.
It’s too bad that “green” school buildings fall short of that ideal.
RALEIGH — “Green” school buildings in North Carolina fall far short of their promises to protect the environment through lower energy costs and increased efficiency. That’s the conclusion of a new report prepared for the John Locke Foundation.
Most green schools examined in the report proved less energy-efficient than traditional schools in the same districts. None of the green schools would come close to reaching energy savings that would recover their higher initial construction costs.
“At a time when resources for education and for protecting the environment are scarce, state legislators and policymakers should look closely at green schools and question whether policies that promote those costly standards actually yield the promised benefits,” said report author Todd Myers, environmental director at Washington Policy Center in Seattle.
The report examines green school buildings in four N.C. school districts: Wake, Durham, and Buncombe counties, along with the Iredell-Statesville public schools. Research focused on schools receiving certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environment Design, or LEED, system.
“None of the green schools are best-performing in energy use, and in every school district at least one of the green schools performs below average, compared to similar schools in the same district,” Myers said.
North Carolina’s results proved comparable to those found in reviews of green schools in other states, according to the report. Examples cited include schools in Houston, Texas; Santa Fe, N.M.; and Spokane, Wash. “Across North Carolina and the United States, so-called ‘green’ buildings often use more energy than their nongreen counterparts in the same school districts.”