Ohio School Facilities Commission staff touted the security of the state’s perch atop the green-schools rankings Thursday, a list that shows Ohio with more than double the projects of its closest competitor.

“Ohio is leading the nation in regard to green schools,” said OSFC Executive Director Richard Hickman.

Lisa Laney, head of the commission’s green-building efforts, told commission members at the monthly meeting that Ohio has 297 school projects completed or ongoing currently certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Of that, 259 are OSFC projects.

Second-place California claims 137 LEED-certified school projects, while neighboring Pennsylvania is in third with 128 projects. In comparison, said Laney, Ohio is 19th in the nation for state-owned LEED buildings and 11th for commercial structures.

Laney said Ohio is seeing more projects skip seeking the lower LEED-silver designation and apply for a gold certification. She said the average green middle school is estimated to save about $6 million in operating costs over 40 years, with average energy costs 26 percent lower, water use 32 percent to 50 percent lower and greenhouse gas emissions 33 percent lower.

Laney said Ohio’s leadership has spurred other states and governments to seek out speakers and guidance from Ohio on green schools.

On a related note, the commission on Thursday approved five projects under its HB264 program, which allows districts to make energy-efficiency improvements they can then pay for with the resulting savings, costs they are required to recoup within 15 years to qualify. The commission approved projects worth $209,000 in Aurora City Schools; $288,000 at Cuyahoga Valley Career Center; $8.9 million in Delaware City Schools; $1.54 million in Ontario Local schools; and $933,000 in South Euclid City Schools.

Also Thursday, the commission approved $60.6 million worth of labor agreements spanning 40 contracts in 17 districts, including the state schools for the deaf and blind.