The Cloverleaf school district in Ohio combined three elementary schools into a single, energy-efficient building. (Photo courtesy John Gladden, Cloverleaf Local Schools)
Ohio leads the nation in energy-efficient LEED schools, saving millions of dollars on energy costs statewide. And cash-strapped districts are hoping voters appreciate those financial benefits as they make their cases for levy approvals.
The state’s top rank is in large part because of the Ohio School Facilities Commission’s (OSFC) adoption of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Schools rating program. The program, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, applies to new construction or major renovations for schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
“Ohio is leading the nation in our green school efforts. We’re even beating California,” says Lisa Laney, green schools program director for OSFC. As of April 2013, Ohio had 345 schools either certified or registered for certification, compared to just 201 in California, according to commission and USGBC data.
“Every district that we’re currently working with is expected to design their building with an eye to receiving LEED silver certification,” OSFC spokesman Rick Savors adds. Schools don’t have to stop at silver. The 69 Ohio schools certified so far include three at the platinum level, 31 with gold certification, 34 with silver certification, and one plain certification.
The law doesn’t require all new school projects to go through OSFC. For those that do, projects get co-funding from the state, and OSFC boosts the budget 3 percent to cover LEED certification. State and local shares vary, based on a funding formula that considers local property values.
“Those green schools average about a third less energy use in wattage than traditional schools,” notes Rob Delane, deputy executive director at the Ohio School Boards Association. Depending on a school’s size, savings “could be upwards of $100,000 per year.”