Highlights: Last month’s meeting of the Ohio School Facilities Commission set a new standard for OSFC-funded projects: meeting certification as “green buildings.” This article sums up what that means for the Ohio schools of the future and provides a short introduction to “LEED” design.

Ohio schools are going green. With a resolution passed at its September meeting, the Ohio School Facilities Commission adopted, as part of the school design standards, the Rating System of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Schools, called “LEED” for short. This means that all future OSFCfunded buildings will be required to meet LEED for Schools Silver certification standards and encouraged to meet the higher Gold certification standards.

So what is LEED? Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED was designed to be a voluntary building certification program. LEED uses a points system to evaluate buildings in five areas: (1) sustainable sites, (2) water efficiency, (3) energy and atmosphere, (4) materials and resources, and (5) indoor environmental quality. Buildings can earn Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum certification, based on the number of points earned during the review process. LEED standards are specially tailored for different building types (e.g., new construction, existing buildings, schools, etc.).

LEED is one of two popular rating systems, the other being the Green Globes auditing system, which was developed by the Green Building Initiative.

The OSFC is not alone in adopting green building standards. Client demand has spurred a green wave that is sweeping across the country. Large institutional owners such as Wal-Mart and Macy’s have begun the process of adopting green building standards; so too have 24 states and 90 cities across the United States.

Growth of the green wave can also be measured by memberships in the Green Building Council. The Green Building Council is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. Since its founding in 1993, membership has swelled to over 10,000 individuals and 12,000 member companies. Seventy chapters of the Green Building Council have popped up around the country, and there is a new chapter that is under development in Central Ohio. In addition to developing the LEED rating system, the Green Building Council also supports green building research, education, and advocacy programs around the country.

The results have been tremendous. To date, over 4 billion square feet of certified green construction has been put in place. Green Building Council data show that nearly $9 billion in revenue was generated by construction companies on green projects last year. This number is expected to increase to almost $12 billion this year. The OSFC’s decision to adopt green building standards is expected to impact $4.1 billion worth of school projects that are under design or slated for design in the near future.

The cost of going green is beginning to shrink, and owners are realizing that initial costs may be offset by future savings. Benefits of green construction practices include lower operating costs, higher lease rates and healthier conditions for occupants. According to OSFC Executive Director Michael C. Shoemaker, “The LEED criteria have been shown to have a positive effect on student health, attendance, and performance. While the state is sharing in the costs of the upfront construction, the benefits—including energy savings—accrue directly to the school districts participating in our programs.”