Hundreds of new and renovated schools are set to meet higher energy efficiency and environmental standards, according to the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

The commission adopted the LEED™ for Schools Rating System as part of its school design standards. To qualify for the LEED for Schools designation, individual buildings must meet specifications for land use, water and energy efficiency, construction materials, and indoor air quality. LEED serves as a design guideline for green buildings and offers third party validation of a building’s green features.

With $4.1 billion targeted for school facilities under Ohio Governor Ted Strickland’s Tobacco Securitization plan, the commission’s action means that more than 250 buildings will be registering for LEED Silver Certification within the next two years.

OSFC executive director Michael C. Shoemaker noted, “The LEED criteria have been shown to have a positive effect on student health, attendance, and performance. 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.”

Under the commission’s green schools initiative, all future OSFC-funded buildings will be encouraged to meet LEED for Schools Gold certification. According to Shoemaker, “Reaching the LEED standard established by the commission is achievable and practical.”

Current OSFC standards and guidelines already align with 20 to 28 of the 37 points necessary for LEED for Schools Silver status. “We currently have one school – Pleasant Ridge in Cincinnati – that has been LEED registered and is seeking Silver certification,” Shoemaker noted.

“We have about 12 other schools in the design process that are currently incorporating the LEED standards.” He also stated that the commission’s actions were a first step. “We will be looking at how this process evolves and the effect these standards have on improving student performance.” In addition to adopting the new standard, commissioners also asked director Shoemaker to form a task force to explore options for state financing that would assist school districts in funding the local share of the cost.