Green Schools That Aren’t Very Green

A report in the USA Today found that “green” schools in other states don’t actually perform as promised. The report, “Green Schools: Long on promise, short on delivery,” gave this example from the Houston Independent School District:

The nation’s seventh-largest school district added features such as automated light sensors and a heat-reflecting roof, in hopes of minimizing energy use. But the schools are not operating as promised. 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.

The reporter even mentions one school from Washington state, where we’ve highlighted the failure of green schools for years:

…Washington Middle School in Olympia, Wash., [was] projected to use 28% less energy. The school consumed 19% more energy than a conventional school in its first two years, and 65% more than planned, a state report shows.

Of course, this is exactly what we found in our ongoing analysis of the state’s “green” buildings requirements. Schools cost more to build and then end up using more energy, not less, in most cases. The state itself confirmed those findings in its audit completed last year.

How much are these requirements costing taxpayers? Washington state’s experience is instructive. According to a new study from Washington State’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, the total cost of meeting the state’s mandates for “green” school construction cost an additional $11.4 million for 13 new schools built in the last two years.

As the USA Today article notes, the real winners with green building standards aren’t students or the environment. They are the architects and engineers who charge more to design these buildings, and the politicians who tout support for “green” standards in public campaigns, even if the schools are short on delivering real benefits.

Comments (6)

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  1. Moe says:

    It’s the green effort that counts…

    • Mary says:

      Let them make their “green” effort in a way that is economically sustainable. The green effort is a waste of taxpayer money if we know it doesn’t produce results but we keep getting fleeced to pay for it anyway. If it’s not producing green results it is NOT green.

  2. seyyed says:

    it is important to note the intersection of this green school trend with the rising cost of education, especially at the university level. many universities that want attract students based on how environmentally friendly they are. this includes electric vehicle chargers, green buildings, etc. however this just turns into higher costs for students.

  3. Mary says:

    There is a lot of road between efforts that make us feel good about our efforts, and actually doing things that are sustainable. Industrial wind, for example, is not sustainable environmentally or economically. That makes arguments for the technology irrelevant….at this time. When a particular chemo regimine isn’t working, doctors do not continue to use it in hopes that it will somehow, eventually, change. We want quick fixes and are reacting instead of thoughtfully acting, allowing perceptions to substitute for reality. It’s a waste of time and money, neither of which we can afford to squander.

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