BOE hopeful pushes for building 'green' schools

October 11, 2008

To the editor:

The High Performance Buildings Act was signed into Maryland law in April of this year. It requires state-funded, new school construction totaling 7,500 square feet or more to meet LEED silver standards for energy efficiency. This type of construction is commonly referred to as "green construction."

The term "green construction" is relatively new to most people. It refers to certain design strategies and building technologies that increase the efficiency of buildings and regulate their use of energy, water, and materials.

The U.S. Green Building Council sets the standards for various levels of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. There are four levels of LEED certification; silver is the second level and is obtained by accumulating an established number of points. Points are assigned for accomplishing set goals such as water use reduction, day-lighting and mold control.


Green construction adds about 2 percent on the average to the cost of construction; however, there are many benefits. Such schools use an average of 33 percent less energy than conventional schools. They require less maintenance and last longer.

Because the indoor environment is healthier, students and teachers are healthier and miss fewer days. Green schools have a reduced environmental impact because they use less energy, save water, utilize materials that do not pollute the air, and emphasize recycling ,including the debris from demolition of schools being replaced. Some green schools have even reported better teacher retention and higher student test scores.

Under this new law, Washington County qualifies for the state to pay 73 percent of the additional costs for green construction. Coupled with the energy savings, as well as the other benefits, this can only be a win-win situation for our county schools.

As a school board member in 2005, I advocated for the inclusion of green construction elements in the three new schools which were opened in August of 2008 - Pangborn, Maugansville, and Rockland Woods Elementary Schools.

Indeed, some green elements were utilized in their construction including the installation of ventilators for air exchange and low-E glass for energy savings, an emphasis on natural day-lighting, and attention to building orientation and the inclusion of deep overhangs both of which reduce energy requirements.

"On average, green schools save $100,000 per year -enough to hire two new teachers, buy 200 new computers, or purchase 5,000 new textbooks" (U.S. Green Building Council, 2007). Maryland legislators have taken a major step in the right direction by enacting the High Performance Buildings legislation. Now we must insist that the Washington County School System not only complies with these new requirements, but goes beyond by constructing facilities which meet LEED platinum standards, the highest level of green school construction.

I fought for green construction during my previous tenure (2002-06) on the School Board, long before it became a State requirement.

As a 2008 candidate for School Board, I promise, if elected, to advocate for all future schools to be built utilizing sustainable, energy-efficient, environmentally sound practices.

With utility costs rising sharply and the healthy benefits green construction provides to our students, our teachers, and our environment, how can we do otherwise?

On Nov. 4, please vote for me, Jacqueline Fischer, and for healthy schools.

Jacqueline Fischer
Washington County School Board
Clear Spring

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