Ellen Perlman was a GOVERNING staff writer and technology columnist.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the sunlight-filled rooms at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, students are having a hard time dozing off at their desks--harder than when they sat in fluorescently lit classrooms.
Green buildings, such as the redesigned T.C. Williams, seem to have "magic powers." They not only save energy and improve indoor air quality but appear to improve student health, attendance, performance and even behavior. T.C. students, for instance, have avoided a usual rite-of-passage--the marring of the building with graffiti. In some green elementary schools, students join "energy patrols" and ticket teachers for leaving lights on.
Green schools also can save money over the life of the building, help retain teachers and increase test scores, according to the U.S. Green Building Council, which certifies new buildings with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, or LEED.
Several school districts are moving their facilities or parts of them in the green direction. All totaled, 58 schools around the country have been certified, and at least another 360 have registered their building projects, a step in the certification process. A school in Seattle, for instance, harvests rainwater from its roof; the water is used to flush the toilets. The Ohio School Facilities Commission in late September adopted the LEED standard as part of its school design standards, which translates into at least 150 buildings registering for certification within the next two years. "This is unprecedented," says Rachel Gutter, schools sector manager for the Green Building Council. "They're really creating a generation of environmental natives."