Last week mayors from around the nation gathered in Oklahoma City for the 78th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM). During the USCM meeting, the mayors agreed to adopt five green building resolutions that will help improve their communities.
The five resolutions focus on several green building arenas:
- Financing opportunities for green retrofits
- School districts
- Urban sustainable development
- Green affordable housing
- Urging the adoption of the International Green Construction Code by individual cities
“Critical to bringing green building to scale is smart public policy that enables investment and market growth,” said Roger Platt, senior vice president of Global Policy & Law, USGBC. “USCM’s set of resolutions calls on mayors nationwide to do just that, placing a special emphasis on ensuring that the benefits of green buildings are enjoyed by the sectors that need it most — like affordable housing and schools.” Source: USGBC (PDF)
According to the USCM, 20 percent of Americans spend their day in a school building; this includes students, faculty, staff and administrators. A green building is a healthier building and buildings with better indoor air quality have been linked to fewer cases of asthma and allergies as well as lower rates of absenteeism. Additionally, healthier workspaces are also linked to improved employee satisfaction.
While building new schools according to the LEED rating system can be beneficial to employees and students, green retrofits of existing schools will be the most cost-effective according to the USCM resolution.
To help facilitate the process of creating greener school districts, the USCM "calls upon its constituents to partner with their local school districts to implement green initiatives such as appointing sustainability managers, establishing a green advisory team, providing training for municipal and district staff, and adopting policies that call for all district schools to pursue certification through third-party rating systems like LEED; to the extent that local school district are subject to statutory tax caps and/or debt limitations, said caps and/or debt limitations should be waived for projects related to greening school facilities." Source: USCM (PDF)
As a mom, I think it's great that the organization is taking an official stance on creating greener school environments, however waiving the debt limitations is a concern for me. I live in Arizona and the public education budget has been slashed to help balance the state's budget. For our district, this meant the closing of two schools. While I want my children to be educated in a healthier school environment, I want to make sure that this is done without threatening the quality of the education they receive. This is definitely a fine line for school districts to balance, and I hope that in the end they are able to walk that line successfully.