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09/28/2007

State-funded schools must meet new "green" design standards

Cost of LEED certification to be paid by state

New schools that receive funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission must be designed to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly, according to new guidelines adopted by the commission Thursday.

With billions flowing into school construction projects as a result of the plan to securitize the state's tobacco settlement payments, OSFC expects at least 250 school buildings to seek certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's rating system within the next two years.

The commission said it would add a funding allowance to project budgets to cover any cost increases due to the new requirements. In addition, OSFC will pay any fees related to the certification process.

School facility projects will be required to obtain at minimum the silver certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Schools Rating System, according to OSFC.

"Reaching the LEED standard established by the commission is achievable and practical," Executive Director Michael Shoemaker said, noting the Pleasant Ridge School in Cincinnati has been LEED registered and is seeking silver certification. About 12 additional schools in the design process are currently incorporating the LEED standards.

Current OSFC standards and guidelines for school construction projects meet up to 28 of the 37 points nec-essary for LEED for schools silver status, OSFC said.

The four progressive levels of certification – certified, silver, gold, and platinum – depend on the number of specifications for land use, water and energy efficiency, green construction materials, and indoor air quality, the commission said. LEED serves as a design guideline for green buildings and offers third party valida-tion.

"The LEED criteria have been shown to have a positive effect on student health, attendance, and performance," Shoemaker said in a statement. "While the state is sharing in the cost of the upfront construction, the benefits, including energy savings, accrue directly to the school districts participating in our programs."

He said the commission's actions on Thursday were a first step. "We will be looking at how this process evolves and the effect these standards have on improving student performance."

Ultimately, OSFC hopes to establish LEED gold certification as the statewide goal, according to the agency.

The commission is creating a task force to explore methods of helping local districts acquire their share of the additional funding.

(Gongwer Ohio Report, Sept. 27, 2007)

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