News Brief

National Review of Green Schools: Costs, Benefits, and Implications for Massachusetts

A Report for the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative by Gregory Kats, Capital E. Available free at December 2005, 66 pages.

Following up on their influential 2003 report “The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings” (see “Green Building Pays” in


Vol. 12, No. 11), Greg Kats and his team at Capital E have applied similar methods and reached similar conclusions regarding schools. For the Green Schools reports Kats analyzed cost and performance data for 30 schools, of which 12 are in Massachusetts. He then applied Massachusetts-based factors for energy costs, teacher salaries, and other parameters to arrive at his conclusions.

On average, the report finds that green schools are built at a premium of 1.5% to 2.5%, or about $4/ft2 ($40/m2). For this premium, it shows a net present value benefit of $60 to $70/ft2. Only about $15 of that accrues directly to the school, however, mostly from energy and water savings, improved teacher retention, and lower healthcare costs. That $15 translates into nearly $200,000 per year of additional resources available for an average school (after any first-cost premium is paid for), according to Kats.

The largest benefit in Kats’ analysis is based on the presumed increased earning potential for students whose achievement is improved by the high-performance schools. While the actual value is highly uncertain, Kats defends the inclusion of this number as a conservative estimate, based on the relatively strong data indicating fewer sick days and better test scores for students in green schools.

Due to limitations in the available data, the report’s assumptions regarding energy savings, water savings, and other benefits are mostly from simulations and predictions rather than measured savings. Based on evidence from other sources that measured savings often fail to live up to predictions, these numbers may be somewhat optimistic. Hopefully more actual measured data will become available over time to increase confidence in the analysis. In the meanwhile, however, this report is the most comprehensive and rigorous attempt we’ve seen to quantify the costs and benefits.

Published February 1, 2006

Malin, N. (2006, February 1). National Review of Green Schools: Costs, Benefits, and Implications for Massachusetts. Retrieved from

Add new comment

To post a comment, you need to register for a BuildingGreen Basic membership (free) or login to your existing profile.