Green building resources for schools

Tools and resources to make schools healthier and more sustainable

Student placing plastic bottle in recycling binFrom Kindergarten through high school, a typical child spends up to 15,000 hours in the classroom. A survey by the U.S. General Accounting Office estimates that over 46 million students attend schools with unsatisfactory environmental conditions — poor ventilation, toxic materials, and inadequate natural lighting.

Sustainable buildings are healthy buildings with good indoor air quality and lighting. They are energy efficient, use natural resources in an efficient manner, and are operated and maintained in an environmentally-friendly fashion. Sustainable buildings utilize non-toxic options for finishes/materials, cleaning supplies, pest management, and grounds maintenance.


  • Healthy School, Healthy Kids
    US EPA's offers tools to establish, maintain, and enhance a school's environmental health program.
  • Center for Green Schools
    A program of the US Green Building Council
  • Minnesota Sustainable Building Guidelines (B3)
    The B3 tools and programs are designed to help make buildings more energy efficient and sustainable. The B3 programs have been developed for and are required on State-funded projects in Minnesota, however they are easily applied to any project.
  • PDF icon High Performance Schools for Higher Performing Students
    A tool for decision-makers to state the purpose and expectations for school construction or remodeling, focusing on the idea that students come first. High performance schools — whether new or remodeled — can serve as environmental models and provide comfortable surroundings with minimal resource use, all without incurring higher costs.
  • Upper Midwest Association for Campus Sustainability
    Building a regional network that supports individuals and organizations seeking to move their campuses to a more environmentally sustainable footing through networking, collaboration, information exchange, and face-to-face meetings of faculty, professional staff, students and administrators working toward sustainability. They currently offer e-mail lists, a web-based collection of case studies, and regional meetings.


HTML icon Minnesota Materials Exchange Alliance

Materials exchange offers a free service that connects organizations with surplus and usable wastes with others that might be able to use them. It's tailored to businesses, but also a valuable resource for schools. Use their online catalog, or contact the Minnesota Materials Exchange Alliance at 612-624-0808 or 800-247-0015.

HTML icon Minnesota Computers for Schools

This Minnesota nonprofit provides eligible K-12 schools with quality, used computer equipment donated from businesses and organizations. For details on eligibility or apply, visit the Web site or call 651-779-2816.

Indoor air quality

  • HTML icon Indoor air quality in schools (Minn. Department of Health)

    Information on investigating and remediating mold, model asthma plan, model IAQ management plan, radon management and other resources.

  • Section 01350 Indoor Air Quality Standards
    Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS), 2002
    The CHPS criteria includes California Section 01350 indoor air quality standards and materials testing protocol. Read about "health and productivity" issues. The 3-volume Best Practices Manual and other materials are available for free download:
  • Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1995
    A "how-to" guide for improving indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools, with checklists for classrooms, ventilation, maintenance, food service, waste management, and renovation and repairs. Also features a project coordinator's guide, a health official's guide to indoor air pollution, a problem-solving wheel, and a video — Taking Action and Ventilation Basics. Much of the kit is online: Request a free kit by faxing a request to the EPA's Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse, (fax) 703-356-5386, or call 800-438-4318.
  • Environment and Human Health, Inc. |
    This site offers many reports and resources about healthy schools including: 12 Steps Toward Healthier Schools, a brief guide to simple, low-cost IAQ improvement strategies.

Outdoor air quality

No idling: Protect children from diesel fumes
In 2002, Minnesota adopted legislation to protect the health and safety of children from harmful diesel bus emissions. This law calls for schools to reduce the unnecessary idling of school buses in front of schools, and reroute bus parking zones away from air-intake vents (or if necessary, relocate the air-intake vents).

Integrated pest management (IPM)

HTML icon Integrated pest management program (MDA)

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture develops and implements statewide strategies for the increased use of IPM.

HTML icon IPM standards for schools (IPM Institute of North America, Inc.)

More than 700 IPM practices for use in school buildings and on school grounds, as well as more than 250 information resources. (IPM Standards for Schools: Tactics and Resources for Reducing Pest and Pesticide Risks in Schools and Other Sensitive Environments, 2004)

HTML icon National school IPM information (University of Florida)

University of Florida site supported by EPA and the National IPM Network provides technical information for specific pests, administrator forms and contracts, presentations and more.


  • PDF icon Greening America's Schools - Costs and Benefits (2006)
    This report documents the financial costs and benefits of green schools compared to conventional schools. Based on a national review of 30 green schools, the analysis demonstrates that green schools cost less than 2% more than conventional schools - about $3 per square foot - but provide financial benefits that are 20 times as large. 
  • Power Save Schools | The Alliance to Save Energy helps schools save money on energy costs and protect the environment through cooperative, school-wide changes in behavior, operations and maintenance procedures and retrofits of more efficient equipment.
  • Energy Smart Schools |
    EnergySmart Schools (ESS) is an important part of the Rebuild America program that is committed to building a nation of schools that are smart about every aspect of energy. The U.S. Department of Energy provides a how-to building design guide, case studies, teaching resources, and detailed information on school building elements for energy conservation.
  • Green Schools Energy Project: A step-by-step manual (Youth for Environmental Sanity)
    The how-to guide explains organizing, planning and implementing school energy-saving projects, and includes facts on energy use and related environmental effects. The manual is free for download at To order a printed copy, call 877-293-7226 ($10).


 An Evaluation of Daylighting in Four Schools in the Research Triangle Area of North Carolina. This summary report discusses results from four schools built from 1992-2003 and the success of various daylighting strategies and technologies.


  • Greening School Grounds: Creating Habitats for Learning
    A series of articles on natural outdoor spaces for schools, sharing perspectives on childhood needs for outdoor exploration and connection to nature. Offers several ideas for schoolyard projects including insect gardens, tree nurseries, bird-watching areas, vegetable gardens and natural plant succession areas. 
  • Schoolyard Habitats |
    The National Wildlife Federation provides the basics for implementing a schoolyard habitat program, improving schoolyard areas with natural landscaping, attracting wildlife and conserving resources. They also focus on integrating the outdoor classroom with several learning themes, with many case studies and an extensive list of resources. A "School Habitat Certification" project for schools helps develop and implement schoolyard habitats. Contact the NWF for a planning guide and application at their website or call 800-822-9919 toll free.
  • National Gardening Association |
    Designed for K-12 schools, this site provides information on Youth Garden Grants and other schoolyard greening projects. Also provides a resource directory for teachers.

Water conservation