• Allen Rathey

Is a Green School a Healthy School?

Updated: Sep 7, 2018

-- By Dr. David Mudarri --

Don’t just assume that a green school is also a healthy school. The green movement arose to meet concerns related to impacts on the outdoor environment and energy efficiency. Only recently have direct impacts on human health been included as a main consideration, and although health impacts are gaining ground, much emphasis remains on broader eco- and energy-saving considerations.

Some building rating programs are based on a point system: A building gets certified as green based on the total number of points it achieves in various environmental categories. Thus, whether a certified green building is also healthy depends on (1) whether the health category is well represented in the certification program and (2) whether a particular building or product receiving the certification achieved many of its points by protecting health as opposed to just guarding the outdoor environment.

Finally, certifications of green buildings have historically been mostly applied to the design and construction of new buildings as opposed to how the building is operated or maintained. Thus, a certified, newly constructed green building can quickly become a dirty, contaminated building if it isn’t cleaned, operated, and maintained correctly.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Green Building Rating System has introduced a certification category for Existing Buildings Operation and Maintenance (EBOM). Similarly, Green Seal certifies green cleaning operations with its GS-42 standard. ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, administers the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) and CIMS for Green Buildings (CIMS-GB) to help promote management excellence and standardize green cleaning processes.

Make sure a building’s operations meet at least one of these standards and/or conform to the criteria for healthy schools provided in publications such as the Quick and Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools from the Healthy Schools Campaign, the operations and maintenance section of the Collaborative for High Performance Schools’ (CHPS) Best Practices Manual, and of course, the book, Clean & Healthy Schools For Dummies, before you judge that a green school is a healthy school.

(Adapted with permission from Clean & Healthy Schools For Dummies)