LEED Certify Your School Buildings
By Rachel Gutter
In November 2008, with unprecedented support from taxpayers, California’s Sweetwater Union High School District passed a $3.2 billion bond issue to repair or rebuild each of its 29 schools. For school board President Arlie Ricasa, the money presented the district with a “great opportunity” to do the right thing -- go green.
To do that, Ricasa and the board had to sell the concept to the superintendent and administrative team, then to the community. Once that was successful, the board unanimously approved a resolution that sent a powerful message to the district’s 42,000 students and 3,800 staff -- Sweetwater Union would pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for all of its schools.
Currently, there are 265 schools that have been LEED certified, and hundreds more are going through the process with the goal of certification upon completion. LEED, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is the leading program for the design, construction, and operation of green buildings. “We wanted 100 percent of our construction projects to be LEED Gold certified,” Ricasa says, noting that no other California district had made this level of commitment.
According to Ricasa, the community’s response has been positive and supportive. The board and district staff shared their green building goals, citing benefits such as improved student health and lower utility costs. Two years into the rebuilding effort’s first phase, Sweetwater is well on its way to becoming one of the greenest school districts in the country.
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