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Proposition 1D:

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 Proposition 1D.”

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 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 others.”

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 HPS grant.

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 air quality.”

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.”




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