This month, council members passed a bill to make Washington,
D.C., the first major city to require all developers to design
certified energy efficient buildings. Mayor Anthony Williams is
expected to sign the bill into law.
of green design include water-free urinals, solar panels and recycled
building materials that reduce waste and conserve water and energy.
Certified green buildings usually save between 20 percent and
50 percent on energy costs, an important draw at a time when high
energy costs are a concern across the country.
The organization that certifies buildings, the U.S. Green Building
Council (USGBC), uses Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED) ratings to rank green buildings from platinum to bronze
based on points earned from green features, efforts to preserve
the surrounding environment and commitment to healthy conditions
A Growing Trend
Other cities participating in the green building boom include
Chicago, which has a unique program offering grants to cover roofs
with grass and plants. These "green roofs" reduce polluted
storm water runoff and insulate the building.
New Orleans, the organization Global Green, with actor Brad Pitt
as its spokesman, sponsored a green architecture competition over
the summer to design housing units for the city's reconstruction.
The goal was to save residents money while providing a healthy
and uplifting home design.
At the end of 2006, there were 550 LEED certified buildings in
the country and more than 3,500 registered projects in the works.
About 220 of these projects are schools.
Schools Going Green
Interest in green building
among school districts has been so high that a set of LEED ratings
is being developed specifically for schools and the needs of students.
Schools can get green points for taking steps to improve student
health, like serving locally grown produce in their cafeterias
and eliminating harsh cleaning chemicals and pesticides from facilities
and fields. But for many schools, the draw is saving money.
Baker, schools program coordinator for USGBC, said money is what
initially attracts school districts' attention, because a large
portion of a school's operating budget goes to electricity to
heat and light classrooms. "In some cases that money is coming
out of teacher salaries and text books," Baker said.
When Clackamas High School in Oregon began looking into planning
an environmentally friendly new building, not everyone was in
favor of it.
"People were skeptical because they thought it would cost
more money to build and we would not see much money back,"
said Dave Church, special projects consultant for North Clackamas
In the end, the contracting bid cost no more than an average
school in the Portland area, and the finished product was a modern
building that has saved the school 20 percent on its energy costs.
The school owes the savings to solar panels, natural lighting
and a high-tech ventilation system.
Creating Environmental Awareness
Some schools have taken the term "green" school to
heart by building environmental awareness into the school's curriculum
Conserve School in Wisconsin, the buildings on the school's 1,200
acre campus are all green certified and the school tries to build
an environmental mindset for life.
"I've developed a more global perspective here," said
Jocelynn Pearl, a senior and the captain of the school's Envirothon
team, which competes in environmental problem solving. "I
didn't know a lot about larger environmental issues, like how
climate change is affecting ecosystems around the world."
At Clackamas High School, Rod Shroufe teaches an environmental
science class and uses the school as a teaching tool. The school
built wetlands to act as a filtration device for water runoff,
so in one activity the class studies the wetlands to measure the
school's impact on the environment.
"These kids recognize the potential," Shroufe said.
"They are taking their parents out to Home Depot and retrofitting