Thirteen years ago, Ohio legislators created the Ohio School Facilities Commission to help poor school districts build high-quality schools. The task of drafting guidelines for the effort fell to Franklin Brown, the commission's planning director and a trained architect.
Brown wanted Ohio's schools to be green, and he was comfortable that the standards he helped develop were. But when Brown started evaluating individual schools using tools like Energy Star, he was surprised by the results.
"To become an Energy Star building, you have to have a rating of 75," Brown says. But most of the schools built under Ohio's code were falling well short of that score. So Brown turned to a different and more rigorous set of standards for new Ohio schools--the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
Initially LEED was a tough sell. School districts weren't enthusiastic about paying to register and certify new buildings. But Brown found a valuable ally--Gov. Ted Strickland's energy adviser, who happened to be married to the head of the School Facilities Commission.
Since the commission started in 1997, Ohio has built or renovated some 700 schools -- 245 of which are LEED-registered buildings.
"The thing that sells it in government is the reduction in energy consumption," Brown says. But he believes that benefits like better light and high-quality indoor air are actually more important.
"The effect on teachers and students is just outstanding," he says. "It makes the rough parts [of the job] worth it."
*An earlier version erroneously stated that "Ohio has built or renovated some 700 gold- or silver-certified LEED schools."