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The PJ Tatler

by
Bryan Preston

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December 11, 2012 - 2:04 pm

USA Today has a long piece today on how the US Building Council’s green Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building standards are supposed to deliver more energy efficient buildings that will save cash-strapped school districts money over the long haul. But the green standard’s actual performance in the real world has delivered increased soft and hard costs, and no appreciable reduction in energy usage.

Sixteen states, accounting for nearly half of the nation’s 100,000 schools, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars for green-certified schools, or are requiring local school districts to follow a private green-rating system such as LEED in order to receive state construction funds. Another nine states have considered adding such requirements in the past two years, and many districts, in cities such as Houston, Los Angeles and New York, mandate green standards.

Green schools exist in every state and account for 45% of new school construction, up from 15% in 2008, according to researcher McGraw-Hill. By 2025, all school construction will be “green,” McGraw-Hill projects.

How’s that working out? Well…

“In Ohio, the state is cutting $1.8 billion in aid to schools in 2012 and 2013 while agreeing to pay builders and designers an extra $160 million from a tobacco settlement fund so that 300 new schools can get certified under LEED.”

“A federal report says that ‘soft costs,’ such as fees to the building council and to LEED consultants, add about $150,000 to the price of a new federal building. A Washington state report found soft costs added $82,000 on average to new state and college buildings.”

“In Ohio, the state school-design manual requires so many ‘green’ features that a new school could nearly get LEED certification simply by following the manual, said Rick Savors, a spokesman for the Ohio School Facilities Commission. … But when commission staffers talked to school builders, ‘they didn’t think they could pursue LEED without additional dollars,’ said Lisa Laney, the commission’s green-schools program director. The commission added 3% to the amount it pays for a school project.”

“In Illinois, where public schools need $10 billion in construction work, the state Capital Development Board opted to pay districts up to 5% extra to make their new buildings LEED-certified, as state law requires. The board has paid $800,000 extra per school project so far. With more than 300 schools needing replacement or additions, the extra payments could exceed $250 million.”

If things aren’t working, shouldn’t they be re-evaluated and either adjusted or terminated? Isn’t that the reasonable, scientific approach? Well, advocates of green schools aren’t interested in that and they counter that certification improves student learning and teacher success — well-ventilated and naturally lit learning environments, supposedly, enhance concentration.

But the most robust examination of specifically green schools, by the National Research Council, found no study linking improved performance with the expensive green schools phenomenon. USA Today, too, finds “no clear pattern” of success in its review of student test scores for 65 green-certified schools across 11 states.

The poor and wasteful management of public schools, building up debt while administrators get rich and leftwing propaganda replaces true knowledge in the classroom, is one of the more frustrating stories to report. Right behind that is looking at how LEED promises much but delivers little more than increased costs while shipping US jobs overseas.

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.
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