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By Ariel Dekovic

California school districts should take advantage of over a billion dollars in remaining state school bond funds, coupled with $70 million in special state funding for high performance schools. Schools can cash in on new changes to state regulations that make Proposition 1D High Performance Incentive (HPI) Grants more substantial.

School districts will also benefit from a new partnership between the Division of the State Architect (DSA) and the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS). Districts applying for HPI funding can pursue CHPS Verified recognition as part of a single documentation submittal, saving time and money through a streamlined review process and reduced review fees.

“The new regulations and coordinated review process with CHPS will make it that much easier for school districts to build the green classrooms that promote greater learning for our kids,” said Scott Harvey, Acting DGS Director. “Through the cooperation of DGS and CHPS, and the reduction in duplicative review functions, school districts will benefit from additional incentives to incorporate high performance features in their facilities.”

Gaining Steam

CHPS Verified, meanwhile, is gaining steam as a program. California’s first CHPS Verified school was recently recognized. High Tech High Chula Vista, a charter school serving 550 students in grades 9-12, opened its doors last fall.

“High Tech High Chula Vista is a wonderful flagship for the CHPS Verified program in California. As a charter school with a limited construction budget, but with a commitment to integrate sustainable principles into the lives of its diverse student population, High Tech High proves that all schools can be high performance schools,” said Bill Orr, Executive Director of CHPS. “The CHPS Verified plaque is not only a recognition of the school community for committing to high performance design, but also a charge to continue to bring these sustainable principles into play everyday.”

CHPS Verified is a green school building rating program that combines a rigorous standard for the design and construction of healthy, green school buildings with a complete third-party review of the features to ensure the benefits are delivered. Compliance with the CHPS Verified program demonstrates that a school has met one of the most stringent standards for green school design.

High Tech High Chula Vista employs the use of natural daylight, photovoltaics to generate energy onsite, operable windows for natural ventilation, reclaimed water to decrease potable water use and environmentally-sensitive building siting. As designed, the campus achieved an Energy Star rating of 94, and a saving of 50 percent over the ASHRAE 90.1. 2004 energy efficiency standard. It is estimated that the school will save $5,000 annually because of the water efficiency measures installed, which include waterless urinals, aerators, low-flow shower heads and water closets. The project was completed on a $175 per square foot budget (excluding the photovoltaic system).

"As the first California CHPS Verified school, we hope to serve as a ‘living textbook’ for the integration of sustainable building and facility practices with core environmental education; serving as a model for future green schools,” said Colleen Green, HTHCV Director.

New Incentive Grants

New incentive grants from California will now pay a base amount for high performance schools. New construction projects can qualify for $150,000; school modernizations can qualify for a base incentive grant (BIG) of $250,000. These base grants are in addition to the score-based incentive funding, which awards 2 - 11 percent additional funding based on the HPI score.

These regulations changes are especially significant for high performance modernizations. For example, under the old model of funding, a 41-point major modernization would have qualified for $66,650 in incentive funding; under the new model, it would qualify for $358,493, more than four times the original amount.

“Most of the school bond funding that’s left is for modernizations. We are hoping to see at least 200 HPI-funded, CHPS Verified school projects over the next couple of years, mostly in modernizations,” said Orr. “Districts that are eligible for HPI funding now have even more of an incentive to invest in high performance school solutions that will continue paying back over the life of the school.”

A Joint Scorecard

DSA and CHPS have also developed a joint scorecard, which allows for projects to apply for HPI funding and CHPS Verified recognition in one documentation submittal. DSA will complete the design review of projects applying for HPI funding, and CHPS and an independent, third-party reviewer will complete the construction review.

In addition, the regulations make more credits available to qualify for state funding, including two additional credits in water, eleven additional credits in energy, and three in indoor environmental quality. Popular non-HPI credits found in the 2009 CA-CHPS Criteria, such as CHPS membership, integrated design, school gardens and HVAC interlocks, will be reviewed by DSA and are eligible expenses as part of the BIG but are not available for additional incentives. Projects that qualify for CHPS Verified status will receive a plaque recognizing their achievement.

The DSA-CHPS Joint Review Scorecard for new schools has also been amended to include the new state green building code, CALGreen. CALGreen’s mandatory measures do not apply to major modernizations.

Additional Utility Company Incentives

School districts should also be aware that in most areas of California, the utilities’ Savings by Design program provides additional incentives to assist owners and design teams in creating high performance buildings. These incentives include an additional 10 percent certification incentive for whole building projects that register for a third-party certification program such as CHPS Verified. In many cases these additional incentives will more than cover the CHPS Verified project registration and review fees.

Savings by Design is offered by the five major utility areas in California. CHPS is a national 501c(3) non-profit headquartered in San Francisco.

At a time when funding is scarce for school projects, the DGS-CHPS Verified partnership offers a roadmap to green school building and remodeling.

Ariel Dekovic is Senior Program and Communication Manager for the Collaborative for High Performance Schools.




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