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Achieving Zero Energy in Schools

The Department of Energy and a group of nonprofit organizations recently released new guidance to support school stakeholders in their pursuit of net zero energy. The Advanced Energy Design Guide for K–12 School Buildings: Achieving Zero Energy (AEDG) represents an exciting milestone in our understanding of energy efficiency, and it encourages designers and school administration officials to consider that net-zero school buildings are within their reach.

The guide was published by The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) in collaboration with USGBC, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES), with support from the Department of Energy (DOE) and analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Providing recommendations on design, construction, and management of a zero energy school, the new guide aims for 100 percent energy efficiency, building on the most recent version of the AEDG before this latest release, which aimed at an already ambitious 50 percent energy savings for K–12 school buildings.

Using up-to-date technologies and strategies, ASHRAE believes, any school can reach their net-zero energy goals. The new AEDG provides strategic recommendations for every step of the building’s design, construction, and maintenance to realize energy efficiency. Several net-zero schools already using the suggested strategies and creating a low-energy-consumption culture are featured throughout (several are also LEED-certified, such as Discovery Elementary in Arlington, Virginia). The AEDG also shares tips on creating building simulations for each climate type in North America, to provide tailored solutions for each school.

There are many incentives for schools to reach net zero energy usage: the budget benefits of lowered energy consumption increased student performance due to a healthier learning environment and accomplishment of a school’s mission to create a responsible, sustainable community. This free resource can help you reach your school’s zero energy goals.

LEED-certified schools hits 2,000

Take a look at the trends tallied by the Center for Green Schools upon the 2,000th LEED certification of a school.
For years, the Center for Green Schools at USGBC has kept a close eye on the way that K–12 schools interact with or purchase the resources and products that USGBC provides. It’s one way to tell how well the benefits of green building are reaching schools and school districts, and it also tells USGBC when we need to do some research to improve the solutions we’re offering.

Just recently, we reached a major milestone: 2,000 LEED-certified K–12 schools.

True to our LEED standards, our 2,000th school, the Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, operates with high levels of sustainability. With on-site renewable energy, the use of low-emitting materials and reduction in water use, among other features, the Rio Grande High School earned LEED Gold certification.

With thousands of schools becoming certified, there’s a wealth of sustainability trends to observe. Here are some we’ve been noting:

Public schools are leading. These 2,000 projects represent well over $30 billion in investment. They also cover a total of 160 million square feet of education space, approximately 2 percent of the total square footage of all U.S. public schools. Public schools make up the vast majority of LEED certification commitments, driven by either state laws or by the desire of school districts to show good stewardship of tax dollars.
Large districts make large-scale commitments. Typically, when we take a look at LEED-certified projects by large/medium public school district size, we see large districts with big capital campaigns at the top. Over the last couple of years, Houston Independent School District and Washington, D.C., Public Schools have risen in numbers quickly as they dive fully into their bond projects. They’ve overtaken Albuquerque Public Schools, whose recent capital campaign is winding down, and Chicago Public Schools.

Looking at the numbers another way, within the large/medium public school district group, we see that Cincinnati Public Schools and South-Western City Schools, both in Ohio, have huge percentages of schools that have achieved certification. In both cases, nearly 40 percent of all schools in the district are certified, constituting a major commitment and commendable effort.
Some states distribute funding to assist smaller districts. The state-level data tells another angle of the national story because it highlights the state of Ohio’s commitment to LEED certification for all of its schools. Just over 300 schools have been certified in Ohio, more than double the number certified in the second-place state, California. The certified schools in Ohio are distributed around the state, reflective of the state’s commitment to assist smaller, less-wealthy school districts with needed capital construction funds.
The places using LEED are geographically diverse. The list of top states for LEED-certified schools emphasizes the broad appeal of green schools and green building practices. The top six states for LEED in schools are Ohio, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Maryland and Florida. Schools are seeing the value of the third-party verification that LEED provides—whether rural, urban, suburban on the coast or inland.

State lawmakers plan legislation in support of green schools..

Legislators gathered at a green school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the Center for Green Schools.

Early in August, the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators hosted their annual meeting in Boston, where state lawmakers discuss the most pressing issues in environmental policy and make commitments for their coming legislative sessions. Each year at the caucus meeting, the Center for Green Schools at USGBC holds a workshop to review the latest in green schools research and policy and make an action plan.

A dozen legislators from around the country joined us in a morning tour of the beautiful Martin Luther King, Jr. School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which was recently built with aspirations of net zero energy and seeks to achieve LEED Platinum. Visitors met with the architects from Perkins Eastman, the former mayor of Cambridge and city energy staff to learn about the policy landscape and motivations behind the green school. They also learned more about the school’s features—including an extensive learning garden, lesson-friendly mechanical room, and an indoor/outdoor gym.

National Caucus of Environmental Legislators tour Boston school

That afternoon, the group was joined by around 30 additional lawmakers for a workshop to review current research and recent legislation on four topics:

  • School infrastructure financing and management: The group discussed recommendations for local, state and federal action from a 60-person working group of national experts on school financing and management, including implications for state-level policy making to give school districts what they need to operate healthy and efficient buildings.
  • Energy efficiency in existing schools: A soon-to-be-released policy overview from the Center for Green Schools was reviewed. The overview covers state laws in eight states that provide funding mechanisms for energy efficiency projects in existing schools.
  • Benchmarking: The group examined current best practices for benchmarking energy, water and other sustainability metrics on the local and state level, including examples of existing state-level and local policies.
  • Green infrastructure: A preview was given to a forthcoming study that builds on the 2016 Achieving Urban Resilience, as well as policy implications for more sustainable land and infrastructure management. New research on the sustainability and health opportunities of so-called “smart surfaces” was also addressed.

Each year, the Center for Green Schools follows up with state legislators to ensure they have the resources they need to advance their priorities on green schools and green buildings. View our menu of options for state legislators, and pick out what you think is most important to take to your elected officials.

After many years of working with legislators, we have learned that your voice, as a constituent, is the one they value most.

Albuquerque students’ Green Apple Day of Service booth yields hundreds of energy savings pledges

Published on 29 Oct 2015Written by Tony Sparks Posted in Center for Green Schools

Students from the Del Norte High School’s Earth Club in Albuquerque, New Mexico, participated in this year’s Green Apple Day of Service. The DNHS Earth Club, sponsored by biology teacher Jim Butscher, partnered with the state Energy Conservation & Management Division of the Minerals & Natural Resources Department at their display at the opening weekend of the 2015 New Mexico State Fair.

The students had hundreds of fair-goers sign Energy Pledges asking for a commitment to reduce their energy use, and they demonstrated an energy bicycle that produced electricity through pedaling. The bike created energy that provided electricity to light a box comparing incandescent, CFL, and LED light bulbs. This demonstrated kinetically that LED light bulbs are a good choice to reduce energy costs. 

This experience not only provided an opportunity for these students to share their knowledge of energy conservation and efficiency, but it also developed their public speaking and leadership skills while supporting the District’s Water and Energy Conservation Program. The Earth Club has been conducting a lighting audit of their school, as well as designing a butterfly garden that will be planted in the fall.

The Albuquerque Public Schools Water and Energy Conservation program is looking for schools, teachers and students to organize Energy Teams.

Tony Sparks

Staff Project Manager – Mechanical Systems APS-Facilities Design & Construction

Member employees

 

Starbucks takes the lead in social responsibility at home

By Judith Nemes

Starbucks is often touted as one of the more enlightened corporations in the U.S. that’s working hard at shrinking its carbon footprint and pursuing global social responsibility initiatives. Those goals are achieved through innovative green building programs, sustainable operating practices, and sourcing fair trade coffees to improve the lives of coffee growers (and their workers) around the world.

 Starbucks’ leaders recently expanded their efforts in social responsibility—only this time a lot closer to home. The Seattle-based company established a college education program in a unique partnership with Arizona State University (ASU) that encourages its own employees to finish college. The carrot for that nudge to go back to school is tuition reimbursement so individuals who start out at Starbucks can aspire to even greater opportunities and achieve improvements in their quality of life.

U.S.-based Starbucks employees who work 20 hours per week or more can sign up to earn a bachelor’s degree in one of 40 undergraduate degree disciplines offered by ASU’s prestigious online program.

Employees who are already in route to acquiring a bachelor’s degree and enroll as juniors or seniors will get full tuition reimbursement from Starbucks for every semester of fully completed courses, the company says. Freshmen and sophomores who enroll at ASU online through the program can receive partial tuition payback and need-based financial aid, according to Starbucks.

        No strings attached

Perhaps most surprisingly, Starbucks employees who graduate aren’t obligated to continue working for the company once they’ve received their bachelor’s diploma.  The motivation for initiating the College Achievement Plan, or CAP, was to encourage more individuals to finish college who couldn’t otherwise afford to do so.

      Two-tiered reimbursement, extra support

The program has two levels of reimbursement. Starbucks is offering maximum incentive to individuals who are closer to completing their degrees, but also gives partial reimbursement to freshmen and sophomores as a motivator to get on the path to higher education. Students receive a small scholarship from Starbucks when they first enroll, which never has to be repaid. Participating employees pay upfront for the rest of their tuition and other fees, but then are reimbursed by Starbucks every time they complete 21 credits (the estimated equivalent of a full semester of classes).

In addition to the 40 existing majors available at ASU online, Starbucks and the university created a new Retail Management Degree that’s geared toward employees who are interested in expanding their skill set for a retail environment and staying with the company after acquiring their degree, says Dayna Eberhardt, Starbuck’s vice president of Global Learning.

Launching the Starbucks’ CAP program has naturally boosted enrollment for ASU, but Michael M. Crow, the university’s president, says the incentive for collaborating with Starbucks was not about numbers. It was more about fulfilling the university’s mission to widen diversity among its student base and encouraging more individuals who don’t have the luxury of attending college full-time to find ways to obtain their degree, he asserts.

LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non profit organization that certifies sustainable businesses, homes, hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™.

Chemline, Inc. is a member of The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and has the potential to provide LEED points.