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WASHINGTON, DC-There is a school in Montgomery County, MD, that experienced zero turnover last year among its teachers. It also happens to be one of the growing number of US schools designed to Gold LEED standards. Rachel Gutter, the US Green Building Council’s Schools Sector manager believes the latter has something to do with the former, but she can’t necessarily prove it, yet.

USGBC has doubled its funding commitment for green building research grants to be awarded in 2008 to $2 million. Of that additional $1 million, $500,000 has been allocated for K-12 school facility research related to occupant impacts. Or in other words, it will be used to develop solid data on the concrete benefits, as well as costs, of going green for schools. “There are a lot of benefits that, if we can quantify, we could make an excellent case for green school development,” Gutter tells GlobeSt.com.

Much like the case for LEED designed office, hotels and industrial buildings, the benefits for green schools make intuitive sense–that is, the energy efficiencies and resulting health benefits pay for the costs of retrofitting or designing from the ground up to these standards. But there are other, less quantifiable reasons as well that USGBC would like to investigate. Teacher turnover is one. “If teachers are happier in the schools they will stay there,” Gutter says. “The number one reason why teachers call in sick is because they have strained their voice. A healthier building can prevent that.”

Quantifying absenteeism among students and that relationship to an unhealthy building is another goal of the studies USGBC would like to fund. Gutter tells of one student’s mother who gave her son’s inhaler to a proponent of his school’s embrace of LEED design. “After the building was complete, she realized her son didn’t need to use his inhaler anymore. So she gave it to him with her thanks.”

According to Gutter, interest in LEED designed schools is growing. Right now about one per day registers for certification and as of mid-January there were 561 projects in the pipeline. Some 75 schools have become certified. “So we are accruing a good sample for analysis and data collection.”

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