Healthy, High Performance School Construction:

Developments in State Policy


Over the past decade, an increasing number of school districts have taken steps to change the way they design and build school facilities. Districts have begun to incorporate a wide variety of environmental and health strategies into the construction and renovation process, with the goal of creating school buildings that advance the learning process while saving money, protecting the environment, and promoting the well being of staff and students.

Some state governments have embraced this approach to building healthy, high performance schools to maximize their investment in school facilities. Early state initiatives include California’s launch of the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) — a public/private undertaking that created the first schools-specific guidance for high performance design and construction and spurred the creation of numerous other state and local programs. Massachusetts developed an early pilot program that funded green building projects and established the groundwork for institutionalizing green schools in the Commonwealth. In 2002, the governor of New Jersey signed an Executive Order calling for all new school buildings to incorporate the guidelines of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. These and other efforts are described in detail in ELI’s 2003 report, Building Healthy, High Performance Schools.

In addition to these pioneering state activities, the last ten years have seen a wave of new state laws and regulations that establish requirements or provide incentives for building healthy, high performance schools. Below are brief summaries of state laws, executive orders and other formal policies that address healthy, high performance school design and construction.

Most of these policies reference either the LEED rating system or the CHPS criteria as the green building standard to be met by covered school construction projects. Both of these rating systems incorporate a wide range of green building features — some features are mandatory for all participating projects, while many others are optional features that projects choose in order to earn points toward achieving the LEED or CHPS designation. Within this general approach, the two rating systems differ somewhat in the features they include and in the way they structure pre-requisites and optional measures. In the area of Indoor Environmental Quality, for example, the CHPS new construction criteria include a larger number of required practices than the LEED system for new school construction. It is also important to note that several of the state policies described below reference a state- or region-specific version of CHPS, which modifies the original CHPS criteria to address local priorities and conditions. Links to these state and regional CHPS criteria are included in the summaries.


Requirements Incentives
Arizona California
California Kentucky
District of Columbia  
Hawaii Guidelines
Illinois New York
New Jersey  
Rhode Island  




Last Updated: May 2017

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