High Performance Schools
A Greener and Healthier Future for California
In the late
moments of the twentieth century, power use in California was reaching a
crisis point. Rolling blackouts were becoming the norm, and energy rates
The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) was born out of this
energy crisis. In November 1999, the California Energy Commission called
together Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Diego Gas and Electric, and
Southern California Edison to discuss the best way to improve the energy
performance of California's schools.
CHPS was formed out of this partnership and has expanded beyond energy
efficiency to address an array of issues that make up healthy and
environmentally conscious school environments. It also grew to involve a
diverse group of 150 government agencies, utility companies, school
districts, non-profit organizations and private companies, as well as
seven other states, all with one unifying goal: to improve the quality of
educational facilities for our nation's children.
High performance schools help school districts achieve higher student
performance, retain quality teachers and staff, reduce operating cost,
increase average daily attendance (ADA), and reduce liability, while at
the same time reducing environmental impact and resource use.
Support for this concept continues to grow in California and throughout
the United States. Over
twenty-two California school districts
have signed resolutions making
the CHPS Criteria the standard for all new school
York, Massachusetts, Washington, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode
Island, and Connecticut have all adapted CHPS for their school systems.
In 2002, CHPS published the CHPS Criteria, establishing the nation's first
building rating program created to specifically facilitate the design of
school learning environments that are healthy, comfortable, energy,
resource, and water efficient, safe, secure, adaptable, and easy to
operate and maintain.
CHPS has a six volume
Best Practices Manual
that supports the CHPS Criteria, as well as a
recently-introduced new third-party verification program, called CHPS
Verified, which adds project management and an independent review to the
process. This builds upon CHPS' original rating program, called
"CHPS-Designed," which is a free self-certification system, where the
burden of responsibility rests with the architect and school district.
Twenty CHPS-Designed schools have already opened their doors, and over a
hundred more are on the way. These schools are environmentally sustainable
and healthy places of learning. They demonstrate that while high
performance technologies may be new, they need not be complicated,
expensive or unreliable. CHPS schools are saving their school districts
money through energy and water utility savings and increasing occupant
health and productivity. Quite simply, a CHPS school belongs to the next
generation of schools.
Elementary School, in Poway Unified School District, is a $21 million
project that opened its doors in fall of 2006. Its stunning 20,000 ft2
solar panel array supplies at least 50 percent of the school's energy
needs (view a real-time analysis of the campus' energy use and solar
Richard Nowicki, a partner with San Diego-based
NTDStichler Architecture, the architecture firm that designed Monterey
Ridge, estimates it
will take the school
14 years to pay back
initial outlay for the $1.5 million system, with annual electrical cost
reductions of $30,000 to $40,000.
photovoltaic array is not on the roof like what you typically see,"
explains Norwicki. "It is on one of the slopes or banks adjacent to the
school, and that allowed us to install a lot more panels than we could on
a roof." Monterey Ridge received recognition as a CHPS-Designed school in
2007, claiming 37 points out of 81 possible points on the CHPS Criteria.
efficient, CHPS-Designed schools such as Monterey Ridge aim to save money
while conserving non-renewable energy resources and reducing atmospheric
emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases. Heating, ventilating, and
air-conditioning (HVAC) systems use high efficiency equipment that provide
adequate ventilation and air filtration; are "right sized" for the
estimated demands of the facility; and include controls that optimize
system performance and occupant thermal comfort. The school's lighting
system uses high efficiency and high quality products that make visual
tasks easier; incorporates control devices that ensure peak system
performance; and successfully integrates electric lighting and daylighting
Environmentally-preferable building materials and efficient use of
resources can also add to a school's CHPS rating. The Chartwell School in
Seaside, California, claimed 57 out of 81 points on its CHPS
scorecard. The school incorporates building materials that have been
produced in a way that conserves raw materials, with a rapidly renewable
resource and recycled content. The school also limits how often materials
will have to be replaced by choosing high quality, durable materials that
are recyclable. They include linoleum flooring, bamboo flooring and
ceiling panels made from renewable materials for a total of 5.6 percent
renewable material use.
The school also uses as little off-site water as possible to meet its
needs, controls and reduces water runoff from its site, and consumes fresh
water as efficiently as possible by harvesting rainwater in an
8,000-gallon tank onsite. Rainwater is used for half of all the toilet
water needs in the school. Chartwell's toilets are high-efficiency,
utilizing dual-flush capabilities to reduce water use.
CHPS also stresses the importance of community involvement and using
schools as teaching tools. Monterey Ridge's site includes a park that is
used jointly by the school and the community. By incorporating important
concepts such as energy, water, and material efficiency, schools can
become tools to illustrate a wide spectrum of scientific, mathematical,
and social issues. Chartwell's students learned about triangular bracing
for roof support from their school's stimulating architecture, and
incorporated this design into their model bridge building competition,
increasing strength of the bridges by 50 percent.
One of the main challenges in building high performance buildings is
achieving project buy-in from all the key stakeholders. It can be
difficult to convince stakeholders that these projects won't run severely
over-budget or hold up the completion date. However, the reality is that
high performance design and construction have been shown to be just as
cost-effective, and yield long-term benefits worth any extra investment.
The key to a successful high performance project is to integrate the
design goals from the beginning of the process, and ensure that these
goals are not sacrificed during development. When lead architect Stan
Clark first brought his ideas to the team at Kenilworth Junior High School
in Petaluma, California, he modeled two schools for the district: a
conventional school design like those the school had built before, and a
high performance school with unique architectural features that could
provide long-term health and economic benefits. "The school district saw
the value-added of the latter model, and chose to invest the additional
funding for the high performance concept." Throughout the process, he
says, they "kept the vision of sustainability."
These days, convincing school boards and facilities managers of the
benefits of green schools isn't hard. In his "Greening America's Schools"
report, Greg Kats of
Capital-E analyzed the costs and resource
savings of 30 green schools and found that the average cost premium was
1.7 percent or about $3/ft2. However, the total energy cost
savings from a green school as compared with a conventional school ranged
from $7 - $9/ ft2.
As high performance building practices become more and more common, the
cost premiums will only go down, creating "bottom line" momentum for
practices that promise to bring significant improvements to the
educational experience of millions of American students.
Ariel Dekovic is the Communications Manager for the Collaborative for High
Performance Schools. To contact the author, email
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877-642-CHPS. For more information about CHPS,
Greening America's Schools: Costs and Benefits
view a schematic diagram of the elements of a CHPS classroom,