Newark Schools Carry Out Award-Winning Sustainability Initiative

Improvements including solar photovoltaic arrays, updated controls, LED lighting retrofits and water conservation solutions will reduce usage by approximately 30%.

As part of a far-reaching sustainability effort, the Newark (NJ) Board of Education will modernize 60 schools throughout the district by implementing Johnson Controls’ energy-efficient, water saving, and renewable energy solutions.

“By investing in building decarbonization, we are investing in a greener future for Newark and a healthier one for our youth,” said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “This is an excellent example of how our city can support clean energy, improve environmental health and train the next generation of sustainability leaders.”

The program is expected to help the Newark Board of Education reduce its carbon footprint by more than 17,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of planting 21,400 acres of forest. The initiative is projected to drive $120 million in savings over the contracted 20-year term. Because the Newark Board of Education is engaging with Johnson Controls under an Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP), the project will be funded through guaranteed energy and operational savings, allowing the district to make critical updates without straining its existing budget.

Newark Board of Education
Science Park High School is a magnet public high school that opened in 1974 and serves students in ninth through 12th grades as part of the Newark Public Schools. (Photo: Newark Public Schools)

“With over 37,000 students being served in our district, our focus never wavers from supporting student achievement, equity and wellness for all,” said Roger León, superintendent at Newark Public Schools. “This sustainability initiative greatly furthers our mission for a learning experience that prepares the next generation of leaders for success and aligns with our pledge for continual and research-based improvement.”

“The future of education and communities at large lies in green, healthy infrastructure, so it’s exciting to see how a forward-thinking school district like Newark can turn its investment into health and safety improvements,” said Nate Manning, president of Building Solutions North America at Johnson Controls. “Students, faculty and the entire Newark community will benefit from these infrastructure improvements for years to come, and we’re proud to be a part of that story.”

Under the ESIP, Johnson Controls supported the sourcing and installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays, whose energy savings will be monetized to further support updates throughout Newark Public Schools. In addition, Johnson Controls will implement a wind turbine, combined heat and power units, updated building automation, centralized enterprise management systems, retrofitted indoor and outdoor LED lighting, replaced boilers and chillers, and upgraded HVAC and water conservation systems.

As an extension of this effort, Johnson Controls financing experts helped secure an additional $1.8 million for the Newark Board of Education. This capital will support the replacement of inefficient and aged plumbing fixtures, reducing water usage by approximately 30%. These funds were awarded as part of New Jersey’s new $180 million School and Small Business Energy Efficiency Stimulus Program, which also offers the potential to secure an additional $5 million to support HVAC upgrades.

“Pursuing creative funding avenues allowed our district to invest in future-ready updates without appropriating resources from our existing budget,” said Valerie Wilson, school business administrator at Newark Public Schools. “From our ESIP to the additional grant funds, Johnson Controls financing experts were able to align our district’s capital needs and desired outcomes with the right financing method, helping us bring our vision for the district to life.”

To support the district’s mission for holistic education, Johnson Controls sponsored several STEAM camps for elementary and high school students throughout the area. Due to the success of the program, Johnson Controls extended an internship opportunity to an impressive high school STEAM camp participant, enabling them to work alongside experts in the field carrying out energy and infrastructure improvement projects within the district. These extracurricular programs raise environmental awareness within Newark’s communities while empowering students with marketable skills that will translate to a thriving future career.

“We are excited about our partnership with Johnson Controls,” said Rodney Williams, director of Energy and Sustainability, Office of Facilities Management at Newark Public Schools. “Johnson Controls has shown that they have a commitment to the district. That commitment goes beyond just energy savings. Johnson Controls has committed to engaging young lives with a STEAM outreach program as part of their ESIP.”

In recognition of its innovative approach to municipal financing, Newark’s ESIP was selected by the Bond Buyer editorial board to receive its 2021 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)/Green Deal of the Year award, celebrating its creativity, community impact and potential to act as a model for similar financing projects. A national trade publication that covers the municipal bond industry, Bond Buyer has identified and honored the most outstanding municipal finance transactions for over 20 years.

Johnson Controls solutions are present in more than 6,000 K-12 schools in the United States, serving over 24.7M students and counting.

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