New York released new guidelines to encourage the use of energy-efficient design when building and renovating schools.

The state will pay out more than $ 1.7 billion in building aid in 2007. Building aid can be used to help fund the construction and renovation of “green” schools. And, depending on the wealth of the district, the state may rebound up to 98 percent of those costs.

The voluntary guidelines, known as the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (NY-CHPS), were created through a joint effort between the New York State Education Department and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. NY-CHPS will help schools develop and maintain learning environments that contribute to improved academic achievement while reducing operating costs and protecting and conserving our natural resources.

“We know that green buildings use less energy, require less material costs, use less natural resources and emit less pollution? Including greenhouse gases,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis. “Initiatives such as these encourage schools across the state to move towards green buildings, helping to create smarter, cleaner, healthier communities and a stronger environment.”

Schools built according to the NY-CHPS guidelines are durable, easy to maintain, healthy, energy-efficient and comfortable. These improvements contribute to a better learning environment that has been shown to contribute to reduced absenteeism and better teacher and staff retention.

Some have argued that building energy efficient schools is too costly. But recent studies show that those arguments no longer hold up. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, for example, studied 30 high performance schools nationwide and shown that despite additional upfront costs ranged between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent more than conventional schools, these green schools provided significant long-term financial benefits, saving the district many times that amount over the long term. Savings can accrue from reduced energy use, reduced water and sewer use, reduced equipment maintenance and replacement costs, reduced site maintenance, reduced liability costs, and even reduced costs due to lower teacher absenteeism.