Poll: Majority of Americans Support Federal Investment in Green Schools

Oct. 18, 2011
One in three says U.S. schools in “poor” shape

A new independent nationwide survey reveals that nearly three out of four Americans support federal investment in school-building improvements focused on creating healthier learning environments, saving tax dollars, or lowering carbon emissions.

Sponsored by United Technologies Corp., the Hartford, Conn.-based provider of high-technology products and services for the global aerospace and building industries, and the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC’s) Center for Green Schools, the survey of more than 1,000 Americans was conducted via telephone Sept. 23-25 by GfK Custom Research North America.

One in three of those surveyed said the majority of U.S. schools are in “poor” shape. Only 6 percent said U.S. schools are in “excellent” shape.

“Americans understand the importance of our nation’s school infrastructure and see the urgent need for significant investments,” Rick Fedrizzi, president, chief executive officer, and founding chair of the USGBC, said. “Too many of our schools are outdated, woefully energy-inefficient, unhealthy, and negatively affect our children’s ability to learn and ultimately to compete in a global marketplace.

“In 2008 alone, the U.S. deferred an estimated $254 billion in school-facility maintenance,” Fedrizzi continued, referencing Carnegie Mellon University research, “and inadequate investment into maintaining our nation’s school infrastructure has led to a significant number of schools in need of major repair and replacement.”

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, at least 25,000 U.S. schools are in need of extensive repair and replacement, the USGBC said in announcing the survey results.

Citing research by Capital E, the USGBC pointed out that:

• On average, green schools save $100,000—enough to hire at least one new teacher, buy 200 new computers, or purchase 5,000 textbooks—per year on operating costs.

• Green schools use 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than conventionally constructed schools.

• If all new U.S. school construction and renovation were green, the total energy savings alone would be $20 billion over the next 10 years.

• A single green school can reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 585,000 lb annually.

Lastly, the USGBC said, in a Turner Construction Co. survey of green-school administrators, 70 percent reported that green school construction reduced student absenteeism and improved student performance.

“A green school is an energy-efficient school, meaning less money is spent on overhead like heating and cooling and more can be spent on keeping teachers in the classroom and getting them the resources they need,” Sandy Diehl, vice president, integrated buildings solutions, United Technologies Corp., and member of the Center for Green Schools’ advisory board, said. “Investments in green school buildings generate positive outcomes in classrooms and communities everywhere.”

About the Author

Scott Arnold | Executive Editor

Described by a colleague as "a cyborg ... requir(ing) virtually no sleep, no time off, and bland nourishment that can be consumed while at his desk" who was sent "back from the future not to terminate anyone, but with the prime directive 'to edit dry technical copy' in order to save the world at a later date," Scott Arnold joined the editorial staff of HPAC Engineering in 1999. Prior to that, he worked as an editor for daily newspapers and a specialty-publications company. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Kent State University.