Canadian Consulting Engineer

LEED schools in U.S. “fall short of promises”

November 24, 2015

An article in the Wall Street Journal dated November 17 has suggested that LEED-certified schools are no more energy-efficient than others.

Entitled, “The Environmental Failure of Green Schools,” the article was by Todd Myers, environmental director at the Washington Policy Centre in Seattle.

He writes that he has studied green schools across the U.S., comparing them to traditionally built schools in the same districts: “Green-school advocates often promise significant energy savings. The results across the country, in North Carolina, Colorado, Washington state and elsewhere, show the opposite. … In every state, green schools fall short of promises.” He even found that some green schools used 30% more energy than traditional schools.

But Myers argues that the problem is not with LEED per se, but with the fact that green building rating systems use a one-size-fits-all approach for green elements. For example, he says, a building that encourages bicycle use by including bike racks earns the project points towards certification, but parents may decide to drive children to school to keep them safe. Large windows are provided often to give maximum daylighting, but they create solar heat loss and gain.

Also, he suggests the margins between conventional schools and those designed to be green may not be as large as we expect because today even standard schools are built to be energy efficient.

Myers concludes that “One-size-fits-all approaches … often focus more on conferring a green image to school board members than saving the environment.”

In Canada the Fraser Forum (a blog of the Fraser Institute) picked up on Myers’ story. Kenneth P. Green pointed out in his blog of November 23 that a National Research Council of Canada study in 2009 had also reflected poorly on LEED. The NRC study found that on average LEED buildings use less energy than others, but between 28-35% of LEED buildings used more.

Click here to read the Wall Street Journal article of November 17.

Click here to read the Fraser Blog of November 23.



Stories continue below

Print this page

Related Stories