Back to school in better buildings

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As tens of thousands of students across Australia begin their back-to-school preparations, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) says its time for Australia's schools to go green.

According to Romilly Madew, the GBCA's Chief Executive, green schools and universities can enhance student learning, create a better workplace for teachers and boost a school's competitiveness.

"Green schools save operating costs for the district, provide a healthier learning environment for students, and support a more sustainable community.

"Research released just this week by education economist Adam Rorris suggests that Australian governments are spending about $1,000 less per student on school infrastructure than the US and Britain -- a funding gap of $11.2 billion since 2002. We'd like to see that gap spent on greening up our schools.

"Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 school buildings in the United States have met or are seeking green certification, with applications growing at a rate of more than one a day. It's time for Australia to embrace sustainable schools too."

High performance, cost effective schools go hand-in-hand with sustainable and environmental design. Ms Madew points to US research from US green building firm Capital E which suggests that green schools save an average of US$100,000 a year - enough to buy 200 new computers or 5,000 new textbooks.

A second study by green building consultants Heschong Mahone has found two-thirds of students in classrooms with lots of daylight had consistently higher test scores.

"Another international review of 30 schools found that while green schools cost two per cent more to build, the financial benefits were far greater than this initial cost and that green schools are extraordinarily cost effective in enhancing student learning and reducing health and operational expenses," Ms Madew explains.

The Green Building Council of Australia operates Australia's only national environmental rating system for buildings, Green Star, which evaluates the green attributes of building projects based on a number of criteria, including energy and water efficiency, indoor environment quality and resource conservation.

The Green Star - Education v1 rating tool, released late last year, assesses the environmental potential and integrated fitout of schools and universities, as well as evaluating major refurbishments of existing facilities.

"Bond University in Queensland achieved a Green Star rating during the pilot phase of the Education tool development in 2008, and they've identified a number of significant benefits of their green credentials, including attracting international students and developing research partnerships with other prestigious universities around the world. These benefits, alongside the environmental ones, have resulted in a sustainable financial return on their investment," Ms Madew says.


"Through the application of Green Star - Education v1, students and teachers can expect cleaner air, more natural light, less toxins and an overall healthier environment for learning," Ms Madew says.

"With the help of Green Star and sustainable building, students of the future will learn a new set of 3Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle," Ms Madew concludes.


About the Green Building Council of Australia
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) is Australia's leading authority on green building. The GBCA was established in 2002 to develop a sustainable property industry in Australia and drive the adoption of green building practices through market-based solutions.

The GBCA has almost 680 member companies who work together to support the Council and its activities. The GBCA promotes green building programs, technologies, design practices and processes, and operates Australia's only national voluntary comprehensive environmental rating system for buildings - Green Star.


Media Contact:
Karen Jamal
Green Building Council of Australia
Tel: 0412 179 135