California is often at the vanguard of promoting and implementing measures that reduce energy usage, illustrated by the number of K-12 schools and community colleges in the state that are becoming zero net energy (ZNE) facilities.
To honor this innovation in reducing energy usage, the Utilities Prop 39 ZNE School Pilot Program has given awards to schools providing models for other educational institutions looking to achieve ZNE status.
The recognition of these schools is a way to incentivize others to make similar changes, as energy bills at California’s K-12 public educational facilities total more than $700 million a year. Schools that advance toward ZNE status received recognition as Visionary Districts, and ZNE verified, ZNE emerging and ultra-low energy projects in schools and community colleges received the distinction of Outstanding Buildings.
The Oakland Unified School District received the honor of a Visionary District by designing and constructing a living laboratory for students while also planning the modernization of Fremont High School to ZNE.
Another Visionary District, the San Diego Unified School District, developed initiatives that set the groundwork to reduce the environmental impact of new and existing facilities. These efforts have been fully supported and funded by the Board of Education, and they have allowed the district to implement ZNE strategies.
Stevens Library at Sacred Heart Elementary School in Atherton was named an Outstanding Building due to its status as the first U.S. library to achieve NZE Building Certification from the International Living Future Institute. The building was also part of a NZE pilot project that measured its energy performance as net positive over a calendar year.
The Los Angeles Harbor College Science Complex also received the Outstanding Building honor by generating more electricity than the building consumes. The project that reached these energy goals considered the human experience and balancing strategies at individual, building, campus and community scales. An integrated design process helped the building reach performance targets and consequently meet ZNE goals.
To learn more about how the schools have slashed energy use, visit www.newbuildings.org/ZNE-Awards.