Green Star in the Inner
Growing Green Schools
At a time when schools throughout the country have been re-engineering
their curriculum to meet the demands of "no child left behind," a quiet
revolution in school design has been unfolding in the State of California.
Proposition 1D, a $10.4 billion dollar statewide school bond measure
passed in November 2006, allocates $100 million of incentive grants for
green, or "high performance," K-12 schools.
Tom Duffy, legislative director and chief lobbyist for the
Coalition for Adequate School Funding (C.A.S.H.), says, "This measure
is very important. It's the first time that state bond funds specifically
for green design have been available."
Although $100 million comprises only one percent of the total bond, Duffy
underscores that this is just the beginning. "It's like other programs
that were created and grew," he says. "For example, in 2002
Proposition 47 allocated funds for capital outlay for charter schools
for the first time. That initial $100 million grew to $500 million in
Well before Proposition 1D was submitted to the voters, California was
working toward establishing standards for green schools. In 1999, the
California Energy Commission enlisted
Pacific Gas & Electric,
San Diego Gas & Electric and
Southern California Edison in discussions on the best way to improve
the energy performance of California's schools.
CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools) was formed out of
that partnership. CHPS published a
Best Practices Manual in 2002 that set the standard for high
performance schools in California, known as the CHPS Criteria.
In 2006, the
California Schools Workgroup of the Governor Schwarzenegger's Green
Action Team recommended the use of CHPS by California school districts.
After Proposition 1D passed, the
State Allocation Board looked toward CHPS Criteria-now synonymous with
the state's High Performance Schools standards (HPS)-as the basis for
allocating the incentive grants.
To be eligible for Prop 1D funding, a school must meet a minimum point
threshold and prerequisites across six high performance categories:
sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy efficiency, indoor
environmental categories, materials efficiency and school district policy
to promote high performance design and operation. (For criteria and a
school district self-rating system see
www.CHPS.net).The regulations that establish the criteria to be
eligible for the incentive funds are currently being reviewed by the
Office of Administrative Law.
"Since 2002, over 20 completed school projects have met the criteria, and
over 100 more are underway," says CHPS Assistant Director Kristin Heinen.
"We recommend that school districts sign resolutions committing to
building green. Nearly 20 have signed on, including large unified
districts such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Palo Alto and
According to David Thorman, State Architect, a school district starts the
process to receive incentive funding for their high performance school by
first completing the Standard DSA-1 Form. (This is the standard form which
all school districts must complete to notify the Department of State
Architect of their intent to seek approval of plans and specifications for
specific school construction projects.) The applicant must confirm that
their project is funded by the
Office of Public School Construction (items 16 and 16a on DSA-1) and
check the box on item 16b to request verification of eligibility for an
The school district then submits the completed HPS Scorecard and includes
the required documentation for each point is listed. The DSA High
Performance School Design Unit reviews school construction plans for
compliance with HPS design criteria. Each school project is given an HPS
score, which determines the base factor of incentive grant awarded to the
project. A grant can provide from two to nine percent of the cost for
design and construction. The funding applies to the whole school, not
specifically for certain green features.
The Division of the State Architect checks to see that each HPS point is
supported by documentation, and proposed high performance measures are
incorporated into the plans and specifications. The plans are also checked
for adherence to other building code standards, like every public school
in the state.
Once the application has been approved, it goes to the Office of Public
School Construction (OPSC) where staff reviews the plans for compliance
and eligible funding. "Most of those completed applications go to the
State Allocation Board within 90 days," says Rob Cook, deputy director for
the Interagency Support Division of the Department of General Services.
The Office of Public School Construction visits county offices of
education and local school districts throughout the state to help people
learn how to access state programs and bond funds. Funding high
performance schools under Proposition 1D is now part of that education
process. In addition, CHPS recently launched a verification program that
will assist schools, particularly those doing it for the first time, on
how to use CHPS and apply for the funding.
Is there a high demand for green schools? Thorman says, "We are looking at
16 projects on an informal basis right now, so when the regulations are
passed, we can move forward quickly."
In spite of the extensive criteria, Heinen says, "I think there will be
more and more interest as school districts see the value of being high
performance, particularly with the financial savings and health benefits
of these schools. For example, school districts can realize as much as a
20 percent savings on their energy bills over the life of the school for
including particular high performance design measures."
Heinen says attention to building green schools has increased
significantly since November. Additional school districts have committed
to building high performance schools projects district-wide. She also
reports an increase in calls from school districts or design teams that
plan to use CHPS and apply for the funding.
"Meeting the criteria is just a matter of incorporating careful planning,
understanding high performance features and having the support from the
school community to provide these learning environments," Heinen says.
"They are good, basic design techniques, such as orienting your building
correctly to take advantage of natural daylight to reduce energy needs or
specifying a material that is ‘low-emitting' to promote superior indoor
DGS's Rob Cook projects two outcomes for high performance schools: reduced
operating cost and better education. "Certain criteria, such as
daylighting [the use of natural light] and indoor air quality have been
found to have strong impacts on education outcomes. The State of
California wants to encourage school districts to design schools that
improve both facility and student performance."