Photo Courtesy of SHP Leading Design
New international sustainable schools initiative involves 30 nations.

With the recent launch of the Global Coalition for Green Schools, the U.S. Green Building Council and the World Green Building Council are putting a stronger-than-ever emphasis on supporting the design, construction and operation of sustainable schools. The coalition will work to reshape schools and "fundamentally change" the way students learn about the world around them, says the USGBC.

"This is not just about energy efficiency" but about the whole school, including the building's contents, said John Mandyck, chief sustainability officer for United Technology Corp.'s Building and Industrial Systems, at the USGBC's Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, held on Nov. 19-22 in Philadelphia.

The coalition's 30 founding members from around the world have made a commitment to establish a national coalition for green schools within each of their nations, according to the USGBC's Center for Green Schools (CGS). The coalition plans to share best practices, resources and case studies. It also will introduce replicable programs, initiatives and campaigns.

"This is the year this became a genuinely global effort," said Rachel Gutter, CGS director. The CGS estimates it will take $271 billion to bring aging and ailing U.S. schools into minimum compliance with safety and other laws.

Also at Greenbuild, which had nearly 25,000 registrants, the USGBC launched LEED v4, the newest version of its Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design green building rating system. LEED v4 is more focused on outcomes and strives to give building owners a better understanding of facilities management for the optimum performance of their buildings, says USGBC.

In addition, LEED v4 has new impact categories, including climate change, human health, water resources, biodiversity, green economy, community and natural resources. LEED v4 also includes new building types: data centers, hospitality buildings, mid-rise residential projects, warehouses and distribution centers, and existing schools and stores.

USGBC says it also has improved LEED support tools and resources. These include simplified credit submittal requirements, reference guide materials with videos and tutorials, and more.

To date, 122 beta-test projects have been certified under LEED v4, says USGBC. Eddy Santosa, lead energy modeler for architect Callison LLC, likes the new version, noting that it contains, for example, an improved method for predicting daylighting performance.

Also at Greenbuild, USGBC and product safety certification group Underwriter Laboratories announced a strategic partnership focused on building-product transparency and occupant health and safety. The group's first effort will be to create an environmental product declaration that lists a building product's ingredients. The goal is for the declarations to comply with LEED v4's new credits that encourage the use of materials and products that are not harmful to the environment and human health.