North Carolina taxpayers are the winners when public schools operate efficiently and when every public dollar is put to its best use and evaluated carefully. Officials and administrators who pursue these goals should be applauded for their commitment. But good intentions do not ensure beneficial outcomes.
Such is the story with “green” school buildings in North Carolina. This report analyzes “green” facilities in four 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.
This report’s author concludes “green” school buildings in North Carolina fall far short of their promises to protect the environment through lower energy costs and increased efficiency.
- None of the “green” schools are best-performing in energy use when compared to similar schools in the same district
- In every school district, at least one of the “green” schools performs below average compared to similar schools in the same district
- In many cases “green” schools require changes that end up increasing cost and reducing energy efficiency
- Buncombe County: Instead of using 30 percent less energy, the county’s two green schools used 7 percent more energy than nongreen schools
- Iredell-Statesville: Third Creek Elementary is billed as the first LEED “Gold”- certified school building in the nation but spends about $7,775 more per year on energy than the district’s average elementary school
- Durham County: Among 28 comparable schools, the two green schools rank No. 10 and No. 15 in energy efficiency, with both schools performing significantly worse than a much older district school that spends about 34 percent to 37 percent less on energy
- Wake County: The district’s one “green” elementary school uses more natural gas per square foot than comparable elementary schools in the district
- Policymakers seeking efficiencies in school construction should analyze the lackluster results of their sister districts and invest public dollars only in methods and technology that produce savings and benefits