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October 23, 2013, by DuWayne Baird

Ohio Green Schools Research Continues

Ohio, home to SHP Leading Design, is recognized as having one of the leading Green Schools programs in the nation.  Since the resolution (OSFC Resolution 07-124) that established this program was adopted, over 300 K-12 projects throughout the state of Ohio have been registered under the LEED for Schools systems.  As of today, 98 have been certified by GBCI.

In 2009, I began managing the LEED process for a multitude of Ohio’s green schools projects as part of my job at SHP Leading Design under the direction of Allison McKenzie, SHP’s Director of Sustainability.  I am enormously proud to say that 6 of the 98 certified schools are projects that I championed through the LEED process.  As a whole, SHP has designed 56 LEED-registered schools, with 24 projects LEED certified.  I personally believe the Ohio green schools program has been tremendously successful in its stated goals.  As a result, decision makers and green building professionals inside and outside of Ohio have sought to gain insight about this program.  The USGBC Central Ohio Chapter, based in Columbus, has responded with the Green Schools Compendium (Columbus Dispatch Article).  I have been fortunate enough to be able to contribute to the Green Schools Compendium endeavor, where I researched project cost impacts of LEED vs. Non-LEED projects.  After that research completed in 2012, I initiated a new research project, under the umbrella of Ohio State Undergraduate Studies and the USGBC Central Ohio Chapter.  The aim of this project is to investigate which credits Ohio’s green schools project teams are pursuing, how often they are successful in earning them, and what types of challenges they have been encountering, based on GBCI reviewer comments.

Ohio offers a unique opportunity for this type of research.  When the OFSC/OFCC funds a project, it must conform to the Ohio Schools Design Manual (OSDM).  This sets a baseline for project budgeting, materials selections, and other project requirements which collectively comprise a fantastic control variable for research purposes.  As a result, in our sample of 75 projects (19 SHP projects), all certified under the LEED for Schools 2007 system, we are able to make true apples-to-apples comparisons between projects.  While there are still a number of factors that influence the decisions of a project team on whether or not to pursue this LEED credit or that LEED credit, there is less variability in Ohio schools from one to another than if we were comparing projects in New York to projects in California.

The researching group, comprised of myself (DuWayne Baird), Grant Holmes, and Dr. Victoria Chen is currently in the process of summarizing the findings for publication and the results will be released very soon.  As a group, we combed through GBCI reviewer comments, conducted surveys of green building professionals, created LEED scorecards of each certified project, and analyzed several quantitative and qualitative facets of Ohio Green Schools programs.  As both a researcher and LEED practitioner, I will be very excited to share our results with decision-makers and green building professionals everywhere and continue to contributing to the USGBC Central Ohio Chapter’s Green Schools Compendium growing body of knowledge and applying this knowledge with an aim of continuously improving sustainability aspects of SHP projects, regardless of market sector.