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  • Wednesday, March 01, 2023 9:57 AM | Kevin Brock (Administrator)

    How Green are Our Schools? An Update on the Austin ISD Bond Programs

    Q&A with Darien Clary, Sustainability Director 
    Austin Independent School District

    Austin Independent School District has become an incubator for green schools among K-12 school districts by advancing and formalizing green building design and sustainable operations into district-wide standards. The results of this accomplishment are an anticipated 60 LEED and/or AEGB certified green buildings, many of which are made possible through city of Austin’s 2017 and 2022 bond programs.

    We recently sat down with Darien Clary, Sustainability Director at Austin ISD, to discuss the progress to date and share insights from the school communities.

    How many of the schools funded in the 2017 bond have been built to date?

    All but one have been completed. The final school, Dr. General Marshall Middle School, is scheduled for completion in Fall 2023. You can view the full list of new and modernized schools from the 2017 Bond Program here. You may also view targeted improvements for schools that include HVAC, security/fire alarm, technology, electrical, upgrades, etc. here

    What kind of annual emissions offset would that represent?

    Districtwide, Austin ISD has reduced energy consumption by 13,040 Metric Tons of CO2 equivalent since 2017 by constructing newer energy-efficient buildings, LED lighting retrofits, HVAC upgrades, and student and staff engagement campaigns. This is the equivalent of powering over 1,780 homes in Austin for one year. (sources for equivalencies: EPA and Austin Energy

    We are currently conducting energy studies on each newly constructed project to understand exactly how much is attributable to the new buildings. So far, we know that Govalle and Menchaca elementaries, both of which were modernized, saved $74,833 in utility costs in their first year of operation alone.

    Govalle Elementary (picture right) is in the nation’s top 5% for energy performance in K–12 schools.  Menchaca Elementary went from one of the least energy-efficient schools in the U.S.—ranked in the lowest 6% of K-12 schools nationwide—to the top 16%.  

    How many schools are or will be retrofits vs. new builds?

    The 2017 bond included two new schools: Bear Creek Elementary and Dr. General Marshall Middle School. Regarding the modernized campuses, many of the projects are complete replacements, while others like Norman-Sims Elementary (pictured below) and Brentwood Elementary used as much of the existing building as possible and worked this into the redesign of the new school. The scale of construction was quite substantial so these are still considered “new” facilities, although much of the structure was repurposed.  

    There were also partial build/renovation projects, such as Austin High and Bowie High, that included a new addition or the first phase of major construction. 

    Lastly, there were targeted projects to address needed repairs to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, electrical, plumbing, roofing, safety systems, academic reinvention projects and other needs. There were many districtwide. A full list of projects for each campus in the 2017 bond book. The district has completed 87 targeted projects and is on track to complete an additional 23 projects in 2023.  

    What are the most common types of green-building approaches that have made the most significant impact on the projects?

    Energy is the second highest cost to Austin ISD behind salaries, so building more energy-efficient buildings can have a big impact for Austin ISD, both environmentally and economically. We have seen that our new facilities have a lower energy use per square foot than the older buildings they have replaced. 

    We have also witnessed the improvements to the learning and school environment that come with connecting our students, teachers, and staff to the outdoors. Our new schools feature ample natural light, visual connections to outside, and outdoor learning spaces. (Ann Richards School pictured right)

    All new schools include the following: 

    • LED lighting
    • Native and adaptive landscapes that support local wildlife and reduce water use 
    • Green stormwater infrastructure 
    • Construction waste recycling
    • Electric vehicle-ready parking or charging stations
    • Solar-ready roofs 
    • Outdoor learning areas to foster connections to the natural environment
    • High-efficiency HVAC systems
    • High-performance windows
    • Daylight and occupancy sensors
    • Water use reduction 
    • Locally-sourced building materials to limit emissions associated with transportation

    How have students and parents responded? 

    We’ve received positive feedback from our parents, students, teachers and community members. We have also seen that thoughtful and sustainable design not only helps us reduce operational costs, but it transfers directly to the student experience. 

    At the beginning of the 2017 bond, the concept of a “modernized” school was new and very different from what most were accustomed to. The new vision includes flexible learning spaces that educators and learners can configure as needed, technology distributed throughout and dedicated community spaces. Consideration of outside space is equally important as interior spaces for learning, increased sightlines and visible connections throughout.  

    Throughout the multi-year process of designing and building the modernized schools, parents, teachers, community members, students, and design professionals took their schools from ideas to drawings, through construction, and finally occupied spaces for teaching and learning. With such transformational results from the first round of modernizations, other school communities have been eager to see similar changes for their own schools through the voter-approved 2022 Bond Program.  

    Below are just some of the things we’ve heard from our students and staff:

    “Having so much natural light in the building helps me focus and feel more positive throughout the day when I’m doing my schoolwork.”

    Felix Luna, student at East Side Early College High School 

    “This school is focused on our children and being stewards of our environment. Kids want to be outside. The daylight brings that natural feel indoors and creates classrooms where our students want to learn.”

    Veronica Sharp, Former Principal of T.A. Brown Elementary 

    “The best thing about the new building is the flexibility it gives our teachers. No building can replace a teacher, but it sure can help. If we can help our teachers by giving them spaces that allow them to collaborate and innovate, then we’ve succeeded.” 

    Alex Winslow, Hill Elementary parent 

    “In the new building, the classrooms are very spacious and it helps us concentrate. Because of all the different types of furniture, we can be comfortable while we work.”

    Livio Wang, student at Hill Elementary 

    Additional thoughts from school principals about green building and connections to nature:   

    “Kids want to be outside. The daylight brings that natural feel indoors and creates classrooms where our students want to learn.” 

    “We watch the sunrise from the second floor window. It is a great way to connect our students to the natural world and to their own world of possibilities.”  

    “The flexible outdoor furniture helps teachers and students enjoy the reading labyrinth outside.” 

  • Tuesday, April 12, 2022 3:19 PM | Jonathan Kraatz (Administrator)

  • Tuesday, February 16, 2021 8:02 AM | Anonymous

    From Heather Benjamin's The ranking highlights leaders in sustainable design, construction and operation of buildings in the U.S.

    "The recently announced 2020 Top 10 States for LEED list showcases the expansion of green building across the U.S., with Massachusetts ranking first in the nation for the highest gross square footage of LEED-certified space per person. Although the COVID-19 pandemic affected the building and construction industry in 2020, U.S. states still made sustainable, healthy buildings a priority, certifying over 400 million square feet of space to LEED standards.

    Now in its 11th year, the annual list is based on the gross square footage of LEED-certified space added in each state over the past year, using 2010 U.S. Census data. It includes commercial and institutional green building projects that were certified in 2020. More than 60% of certifications across these states were earned for offices, education and health care projects. What's more impressive is that nearly half of all projects in the top 10 were certified as LEED Gold, showing a commitment to a high level of certification.

    As the leader, Massachusetts certified 76 projects in 2020, representing 2.91 square feet of LEED-certified space per resident. The state has made the Top 10 list each year, but has not held the number one spot since 2017. Washington made the biggest jump, moving from outside the top 10 in 2019 to number two this past year. Other states that returned to the Top 10 list after falling off in 2019 were Texas and Nevada.

    The benefits of LEED go beyond reduced water and energy usage, affecting the health and prosperity of entire communities. LEED-certified projects save money for families, businesses and taxpayers, in addition to reducing carbon and creating a healthier environment in which people can thrive. From an investor perspective, they are also a critical component of demonstrating progress against ESG commitments.

    Through LEED certification, these states have demonstrated their commitment to the health and sustainability of their communities. Join us in celebrating their leadership—share your state’s ranking with your neighbors and colleagues on your TwitterFacebook and Instagram posts and use #Top10LEED."

  • Tuesday, February 16, 2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    From Heather Benjamin's The ranking highlights the number of active LEED credential holders in the U.S.

    "The recently announced 2020 Top 10 States for LEED Professionals showcases the growing body of LEED credential and certificate holders across the U.S., with California ranking first in the nation. Using their skills and expertise, LEED professionals support the sustainable transformation of buildings and the growth of a healthier, more equitable economy.

    Accompanying the Top 10 States for LEED list for the first time, this new ranking is based on the current active numbers of LEED Green AssociatesLEED APs and LEED Green Raters in each state. More than 100,000 LEED professionals live in these states, part of a global network of more than 204,000 professionals.

    California's 26,906 green professionals brought the state to its number one ranking. New York follows at number two, with 12,575, and Texas rounds out the top three, with 10,474. Among this year's Top 10, Colorado has the distinction of the highest percentage of the population holding a LEED credential.

    Through acquiring and maintaining LEED credentials, the professionals in these states have demonstrated their commitment to the health and sustainability of their communities. Join us in celebrating their leadership—share your state’s ranking with your neighbors and colleagues by tagging your TwitterFacebook and Instagram posts with #Top10LEED."

  • Tuesday, July 14, 2020 4:40 PM | Jonathan Kraatz (Administrator)
  • Friday, May 01, 2020 7:07 PM | Jonathan Kraatz (Administrator)

    Friday, March 13, 2020

    USGBC Texas is committed to the health of our members, event attendees, and our communities, and thus we are taking a cautious approach to resuming in-person activities as the state of Texas and local jurisdictions are lessening social distancing precautions.  

    We continue to monitor policy updates from local and state officials as well as the guidance provided by the CDCWHO, and relevant Departments of Health, and event venues to make informed decisions. 

    In the meantime, please see the information below.

    Chapter Events, Committee and Council meetings:

    • State and regional council and committee meetings will continue to be hosted remotely at least through the end of May (either via call-in or webinar).
    • All Chapter events will also be hosted virtually through the end of May as well.

    We strongly encourage those ill and at higher risk to continue to stay home and we encourage everyone to follow general hygiene best practices. 

    We look forward to seeing you at a USGBC Texas events when possible.

  • Monday, April 20, 2020 2:34 PM | Jonathan Kraatz (Administrator)

    Please read our Spring Newsletter, and you will find information about upcoming events and other exciting news!

    Find out about the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, EarthxVirtual Conferences, and other upcoming events and discussions. 

    Interested in being featured in the next issue? Email to share information about events, news updates, or other announcements. 

  • Monday, August 05, 2019 2:08 PM | Anonymous


    On July 18-20 2019, green building experts from the United States, Turkey, and many other parts of the world gathered at the 4th International Sustainable Building Symposium hosted by Gazi University, Ankara University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, AIA Dallas and the USGBC Texas Chapter. The symposium featured a full schedule of seminars focused on innovative research and building programs. 

    On Thursday July 18, our very own Thom Powell, Vice Chair of the USGBC Texas Chapter North Region, spoke about green building in Texas and provided an overview of Green Building Progress in Dallas Fort Worth. 

    The USGBC Texas Chapter hosted Thursday's keynote session Design Innovation with Purpose. Gail Vittori and Pliny Fisk III, co-directors of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, discussed their current research with the Center. This nonprofit focuses on a variety of areas outside of research alone including education and demonstration organization, specializing specifically in life cycle planning and design.

    The USGBC Texas Chapter also showcased the Mobile Experience Center (MEC) educational trailer. This interactive booth allows visitors to walk through the exhibit and view several beneficial features of sustainable homes firsthand.  

    Several components of sustainability were explored in depth throughout each day of the symposium with a variety of presentations and many more speakers. Just a few of these topics included property design, urban ecosystems, renewable energy resources, land-use planning, and many more.

  • Tuesday, July 02, 2019 10:45 AM | Anonymous

  • Tuesday, February 05, 2019 2:15 PM | Jonathan Kraatz (Administrator)


    Washington, D.C. — (Feb. 4, 2019) — Today, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released its annual list of Top 10 States for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), the world’s most widely used green building rating system. Texas came in at number five on the list, which ranks states based on the number of LEED-certified square feet per person. The growing adoption of LEED across the state propelled Texas into the top five in 2018.

    “Over the past 25 years, the U.S. Green Building Council, its member companies and the green building community have come together to make our planet stronger, greener and more sustainable through LEED,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO, USGBC. “These Top 10 states are examples of how we can create lasting, measurable change and improve the quality of life for everyone in our communities. A better future requires a universal living standard that leaves no one behind—and that future would simply not be possible without the extraordinary work being done in these states.”

    The states that made this year’s Top 10 are home to 128 million American and the more than 1,800 buildings that certified in 2018 represent more than 468 million gross square feet of space. Buildings that are LEED-certified create healthier spaces for people, as well as use less energy and water, reduce carbon emissions and save money for families, businesses and taxpayers.

    “Congratulations to all of our dedicated TEXAS organizations, who value so greatly the principles of LEED, SITES, PEER, et al.” said Scott Gerhardt, USGBC Texas Board Chair. “Congratulations especially to all of our TEXAS GBCI professionals and our USGBC Texas volunteers on this monumental achievement!”

    Texas certified 277 green buildings in 2018, representing 3.52 gross square feet of LEED-certified space per resident. Notable projects that certified in Texas in 2018 include:

    Sea Star Base Galveston, LEED Platinum, a seaside facility designed to teach people of all ages, especially children, different tasks and skills in boating or water activities, while promoting environmental stewardship of the ocean;

    Austin Animal Center Kennel Addition, LEED Silver, which expands upon the existing LEED Gold “No Kill” animal center to meet the community’s growing pet adoption needs, and provides an additional 44 kennel spaces, as well as play yards and adoption rooms;

    Milby High School, LEED Silver, one of the first public high schools ever constructed in Houston, which maintained the original 1926 building structure during renovations, but incorporated modern and innovative design tactics to enhance students’ learning environments; and

    NASA Human Health & Performance Laboratory, LEED Silver, which is a human health and environmental sciences laboratory, think tank, inventors’ workshop, and outreach center designed to study human life on earth and in space.

    “We’re proud that Texas has made it back into the Top 10 States list for 2018. We’ve done a lot to advance green building across the state, and are gearing up for another busy year to build upon our success and keep raising the bar for LEED in Texas,” said Rhiannon Jacobsen, vice president of strategic relationships at USGBC. “We hope that with LEED v4.1, the expertise of builders and developers, and the dedication of our USGBC members, we can continue to lead the growth of green building in the country in the coming year.”

    “We’ve worked hard in Texas to make LEED and green buildings as accessible as possible for our communities, our local policymakers and our citizens,“ said Jonathan Kraatz, executive director of the USGBC Texas Chapter.

    Now in its ninth year, the 2018 Top 10 States for LEED list is based on 2010 U.S. Census data and includes commercial and institutional green building projects that earned LEED certification in 2018. The full rankings are as follows:

    2018 Top 10 States for LEED

    Rank  State  Gross Square
    Footage (GSF) 
    GSF Per
     Number of
     1  IL* 68,133,942 5.31 172
     2  MA* 34,718,212 5.3 122
     3  WA 28,555,753 4.25 137
     4  NY* 72,881,287 3.76 214
     5  TX 88,404,993
    3.52 277 
     6  CO* 17,042,295
    3.39 114
     7  HI* 4,504,287
     8  VA* 25,348,631
    3.17 136
     9  CA* 112,388,968
     10  MD* 16,869,680
     2.92 113
     **  DC 37,147,538 61.74

    * Included in 2017 Top 10 States for LEED list
    ** Washington, D.C. is not ranked as it is a federal district, not a state

    USGBC calculates the list using per capita figures to allow for a fair comparison of the level of green building taking place among states with significant differences in population and number of overall buildings. In the U.S., 2,886 commercial projects certified in 2018. Globally, there are currently more than 96,275 registered and certified LEED projects in 167 countries and regions around the world.

    Recently, USGBC introduced LEED v4.1, the latest update to the rating system, and released beta versions for existing buildings (LEED v4.1 O+M), new construction (LEED v4.1 BD+C) and interiors (LEED v4.1 ID+C). LEED v4.1 emphasizes human health and integrates performance metrics using Arc to encourage ongoing tracking. Recent research shows green building will continue growing through 2021. Client demand remains the top reason to build green in the U.S. and occupant health and well-being emerged as the top social factor. Through LEED, USGBC pushes the market toward higher performing buildings that also improve quality of life.

    The impact of buildings, cities and communities on people continues to be a priority for USGBC and across industries. In an effort to expand USGBC’s global green building efforts and ensure that LEED is not only the de facto leadership standard, but also the pre-eminent living standard, USGBC launched the Living Standard campaign at 2018’s Greenbuild in Chicago. Focused on the belief that storytelling can lead to a more sustainable world, the campaign aims to highlight stories – big and small – that capture how USGBC, LEED and other sustainability programs are raising the quality of life for people around the world. By visiting, individuals and companies can join the campaign and submit stories.


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