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Green & Healthy Schools in Illinois

Education facilities represent the largest construction sector in the United States. Unfortunately, too many schools are in disrepair: barely meeting code, inefficiently consuming energy and water, filled with materials that make the air unfit to breathe. This results in a learning environment that makes occupants (students, faculty, administrators and support staff) sick, tired, and unproductive. Is this where we want our students learning and teachers teaching? Make a difference by advocating for green schools and campuses.Learn more about the USGBC-Illinois Green Schools Committee here.


What is a green school?
A green school is a building or facility that creates a healthy environment that is conducive to learning. Green schools use less energy and water, fewer resources, and are healthier and safer places for students and teachers while also decreasing operating costs through reduced utility bills.

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What is LEED for Schools?
LEED® for Schools is a national, voluntary green building certification program that promotes the design and construction of green schools and provides immediate and measurable results. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED® for Schools is the recognized certification program that green schools across the country are using to build schools that are healthy, comfortable, cost-effective and good for the environment. LEED certification provides third party verification to parents, teachers, school boards and the community as a whole that a school building is certified green and is operating exactly the way it was intended to.

What are the benefits of LEED, particularly for schools?

  • LEED certification is a demonstration that a building project meets a nationally recognized program for sustainability, energy efficiency and quality.
  • LEED certification is a third-party validation of a building’s performance. This third party verification is a requirement for all LEED projects to receive certification, to ensure that all projects are built as designed, and operate as intended.
  • Students – By addressing issues critical to student health, such as indoor air quality, daylighting, and thermal comfort, LEED® for Schools contributes to the improved health of students. A Carnegie-Mellon study found that improved indoor air quality results in a 13.5 – 87% reduction in symptoms like asthma attacks, cold, and flu.
  • Teachers and Staff – Green schools report decreased absenteeism and improved teacher and staff retention.
  • Parents – LEED is like a “nutrition label” for green, high performing schools. Parents can feel confident that their children are spending their days in schools that are healthy, safe and optimized for learning.
  • School Decision Makers and Taxpayers – Third party verification ensures that schools are operating at their highest level of performance, saving energy and water, and reducing operational budgets.
  • School administrators – Make cost-effective decisions for your school that benefit students, teachers, the community, and the environment. A school’s commitment to LEED signifies that it is a part of a community that makes environmental responsibility a priority.

What is the Center for Green Schools?
The Center for Green Schools was established to drive the transformation of all schools into sustainable and healthy places to live, learn, work and play. We believe that everyone, from the kindergartner entering the classroom to the Ph.D. student performing research in a lab, should have the ability to learn in green buildings. The Center works directly with teachers, students, administrators, elected officials and communities to create programs, resources and partnerships that transform all schools into healthy learning environments.


CFGS from U.S. Green Building Council on Vimeo.
How does USGBC-Illinois support green schools initiatives in Illinois?
USGBC-Illinois supports green schools policy and legislation to ensure all Illinois students have access to the health and learning benefits of sustainable school buildings.Our work in this regard includes:

  • Leading the Illinois House Joint Resolution 45 LEED Task Force which is comprised of members or appointees from the Illinois General Assembly, the Illinois Governor’s Office and several state agencies to compose a report on greening existing schools in Illinois and how to finance these efforts.
  • Supporting Chicago’s Prescott School in an innovative pilot to achieve LEED for Existing Buildings certification and publishing the results as an in-depth case study to assist other schools in greening their ongoing operations.
  • Encouraging Illinois mayors to join the U.S. Mayors’ Alliance for Green Schools which unites mayors from major cities and small towns across the country around a common goal: bringing the benefits of green schools to their local communities.
  • Providing education to hundreds of local school leaders on greening their schools including education programs, tours, and case studies throughout our even-branch, state-wide network.

How can I become more involved with green school efforts in Illinois?
USGBC-Illinois Chapter is always looking for community members to make a difference through our Green Schools and Advocacy committees. For a complete list of our committees, go here. If you are interested in becoming more involved with USGBC-Illinois, please contact Pam Jackson.

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Green School Resources
Center for Green Schools

Green Schools K-12 & Higher Education Resources

Green Existing Schools Web Trainings

Playbook for Green Buildings & Neighborhoods – for local government

National Green Schools Coalition

USGBC Students

Green Schools Studies

USGBC-Illinois Green Schools Advocacy

Advocacy:  HJR45 Moving Towards a Sustainable Future for Illinois Schools

USGBC-Illinois Chapter Green Schools Committee

USGBC-Illinois Chapter Advocacy Committee

Office of Governor Pat Quinn:

Illinois Sustainable Schools Compact

Sustainable Schools in Illinois – Schools Siting

Green Cleaning Schools Act

Third Annual Sustainable Schools Symposium – April, 2011


LEED for Schools Resources

LEED for Schools

LEED 2009 for Schools: New Construction and Major Renovation – Rating System; download checklist here.

LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance

LEED for Schools Reference Guide

LEED for Schools FAQ

LEED-Certified K-12-and Higher Education Projects

Project Profiles

Downloadable Presentations


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USGBC-IL Platinum and Gold Level Sponsors