Statistics show that Americans spend 90 percent of our time in buildings, which is why we're seeing a surge in the growth of green buildings, especially schools. U.S. school systems have 55 million students and 5 million faculty members. That's 20 percent of the population spending 6 hours or more each day in a school building.
Many of the older buildings have poor ventilation, heating, cooling and lighting systems.
Making our schools "green" will not only improve the lives and health of students and teachers but will help the environment and the taxpayer and the nation.
Public school officials statewide are aware of this and recently many of them converged on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which sponsored a Green Summit to look at ways to make their buildings more energy efficient.
I spoke to the group and shared some facts about what energy-efficient buildings can mean for their budgets and for their taxpayers.
A case study of 30 "green" schools in Nebraska shows a 34 percent direct energy savings and 32 percent water savings. That amounts to an average savings of $100,000 per year on building operation. Figures like that are really beneficial to taxpayers who end up paying less to operate their schools.
Besides saving money, the green schools are also helping to save the environment. The case study shows that through the use of solar panels, wind energy, and green rooftops, CO-2 emissions at the schools were reduced by up to 39 percent.
In Lincoln, 45 of 57 Lincoln Public School buildings will have geothermal heating and cooling systems by next year. LPS introduced air conditioning into all facilities without an increase in energy consumption due to its geo thermal efficiencies.
In Omaha, where eight of their newest or recently remodeled schools have been recognized as Energy Stars, 20 buildings use geothermal heating and cooling systems.
Many of these projects are funded through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, better known as the stimulus program.
The University of Nebraska system also is involved in green energy projects on all campuses, using over $3.5 million in Recovery Act funds to retrofit buildings on campuses in Kearney, Lincoln and Omaha.
A dozen buildings on the UNL campus will get occupancy sensors to control lights and heating, ventilating and cooling systems.
Energy conservation projects have also been approved at Hamilton Hall, the Scott engineering Center, Othmer Hall, Beadle Center, Bessey Hall and the Home Economics Buildings.
Green projects using stimulus funds have also been approved at UNO's Eppley Administration Building and UNK's Mantor and Randall Halls, Cushing Coliseum and Ryan Library.
These projects are good investments because they are going to save energy and improve the environment while cutting budgets and saving taxpayer dollars.
My hope is that the Green Summit will result in an even greater emphasis being put on energy saving projects. If we use less energy we won't need so much from foreign suppliers and we'll be more energy independent.