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EDUCATION REPORT - 'Green' Schools Grow Around Us

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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

New home of TC Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia
New home of TC Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia

In Alexandria, Virginia, the two thousand students at T.C. Williams High School started classes last month in a new building. It was built as a "green" school based on requirements from the United States Green Building Council.

The council is a nonprofit organization made up of building industry leaders. It has a rating system for buildings called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED.

In two thousand one, there were four schools asking for LEED certification. Now there are four hundred, including T.C. Williams. So far, fifty-eight schools have been recognized for meeting the requirements.

These include protecting natural areas and limiting the amount of chemicals in building materials. They also include better lighting and improved indoor air quality.

Buildings are also rated on how well they use energy and water, and on things like the use of recycling programs.

At T.C. Williams, one example of green design can be seen in the many windows that let in natural light. Students say the sunny rooms help them stay awake during class.

A rooftop garden is designed to provide stormwater control and help keep the building cool in the sun. And an underground tank can store one million seven hundred thousand liters of rainwater for air conditioning and other systems.

The new building cost about ninety million dollars to build. It stands next to the old T.C. Williams building, which officials say will slowly be taken apart and recycled.

T.C. Williams High School is still waiting for the final part of the LEED certification process. Schools receive points for the number of requirements they meet. Buildings are rated silver, gold or platinum.

Around the country, concerns about limited budgets for public schools sometimes lead to objections to investing in green schools. But the Green Building Council points to a report by Capital E, a Washington, D.C., company that serves the clean energy industry.

Capital E examined the cost of thirty green schools in the United States. It says the average cost was only two percent higher compared to a traditional school. And it says this extra cost is small compared to the savings over time from lower energy and water costs and healthier students.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Dana Demange. To learn more about American schools, go to www.unsv.com. I'm Jim Tedder.

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