• School-houses should be built on dry ground; if not dry, the lots must be deeply drained…. The reason for this rule is the well-known fact that dampness of soil contributes much to make a school-house unhealthy….

  • The light which comes from considerably above the level of the desks and books lights them much better than the more horizontal rays. High windows also light the ceiling, whence the light is reflected downward upon the desks….

  • Never think that a school-room is completed until there is some way of getting fresh, warmed air into it and the foul, breathed air out. Ventilation costs something in fuel, but it is a penny-wise and pound-foolish policy which omits it (State of Maine, 1887).

More than a hundred years later, scientific research has demonstrated that building design, materials, systems, operation, maintenance, and cleaning practices can affect occupants’ health and development.

Buildings also affect the natural environment, in the resources used and the pollutants emitted. As shown in Table 1.1, buildings account for more than 40 percent of U.S. energy use as well as a significant amount of raw materials, water, and land. Buildings also produce 40 percent of atmospheric emissions, including greenhouse gases, and significant amounts of solid waste and wastewater.

Recognizing these adverse environmental impacts, a movement to design and operate buildings using methods and technologies that conserve energy and other natural resources—often called green building, high-performance building, or sustainable design—emerged in the 1990s and continues to grow. This movement emphasizes designing, constructing, operating, and maintaining buildings to reduce their adverse environmental impacts through the use of recycled materials, energy-efficient equipment, and other features and practices. The potential environmental benefits of green school buildings are significant: A 2002 survey of 851 public schools districts found that an average of $176 per pupil was spent for energy. This figure is likely to be higher in 2006 owing to across-the-board increases in the price of gas, oil, and electricity. If energy and other

TABLE 1.1 Environmental Burdens of Buildings, U.S. Data

Resource Use

Share of Total (%)

Pollution Emissions

Share of Total (%)

Raw materials


Atmospheric emissions


Energy use


Water effluents


Water use


Solid waste


Land (SMSAsa)


Other releases


aStandard Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

SOURCE: Data from Levin (1997).

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