California Schools Recognized For ZNE Strides

Six exemplary individuals, design teams and school districts were honored with ZNE School Leadership Awards in late November 2017 for their innovation and leadership in driving a new zero net energy (ZNE) standard for school environments. ZNE buildings represent high performance buildings that combine energy efficiency and renewable resources to produce at least as much energy as they consume annually, and California is leading the nation in the transformation of K-12 and community colleges to ZNE performance with over 40 ultra-low and zero net energy (ZNE) schools operating or net energy

To showcase early adopters and changemakers in the K-12 schools and community colleges market, the state’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs), in partnership with the California Public Utilities Commission and other agencies, established the awards and recognition program for buildings in the state, now in its second year. Andrew McAllister of the California Energy Commission presented the awards during the 2017 Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit in Pasadena, CA. New Buildings Institute (NBI) is administering the program on behalf of the IOUs and CPUC.

“I was honored and humbled by the ZNE Leadership Award because changing the design paradigm toward zero energy buildings takes the work of not one, but many,” said award-winner Alexis Karolides of Point Energy Innovations. “It requires creativity, diligence, and teamwork, the very qualities that we want to instill in the next generation of students–what better way to do so than to educate them in zero energy buildings,” she said.

ZNE School Leadership Award winners were selected by a judging panel of industry representatives and considered based on demonstrated achievement that a project has attained or is on track to achieve ZNE performance, or is providing leadership and a model for others to learn from. The 2017 winners include:

VISIONARY DISTRICTS have utilized policies or plans that results in larger scale advancement of zero energy buildings.

San Francisco Unified School Districtzero net energy
Motivated by the California State Architect’s 7x7x7: Design Energy Water challenge, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has completely transformed the process by which it designs, constructs, and modernizes its buildings in order to achieve a carbon neutral district by 2040. SFUSD is an active participant in the Department of Energy Zero Energy Schools Accelerator program and enthusiastically shares the details of its strategy with other districts in order to demonstrate that carbon neutral schools can be achieved at no, or little, additional cost. To date, SFUSD has been able to reduce its EUI by 22% to 35 kBtu/sqft/year, its natural gas use by 28%, and its water use by almost 30%.

Garden Grove Unified School District

Garden Grove Unified School District (GGUSD) has recently become a regional leader in ZNE despite a limited facilities budgets. Although this large, low-income district is ranked in the lowest 20% for household income in California, GGUSD students’ test scores are in the top 20% in the state. When the district learned that the California Public Utilities Commission was soliciting projects for its Proposition 39 ZNE for Schools pilot program that would provide additional funding for ZNE measures, GGUSD proposed two different retrofit projects. GGUSD’s ZNE retrofit projects are the only K-12 projects participating in the pilot program within the Southern California territory. GGUSD’s leadership shows that, under the right conditions, ZNE can make financial sense for any school district.

OUTSTANDING BUILDINGS are ZNE verified, ZNE emerging, or ultra-low energy projects at K-12 schools and community college campuses.

Playa Vista Elementary School, Los Angeles Unified School District (ZNE EMERGING
Playa Vista Elementary School demonstrates high-level leadership in sustainability efforts through coordination of all architectural, engineering, and other associated design disciplines. All energy and sustainability features in the school strive to create significant impact to its students, faculty, staff, and local community members. From the installation of renewable energy sources, such as canopy photovoltaic panels that generate 80% of annual energy usage, the geothermal heat exchange system, and other sustainable and efficient systems, Playa Vista Elementary School is focused on pursuing educational and green technology for the benefit of the entire community. The school currently operates at a gross EUI of 28 kBtu/sqft/year, and produces an EUI of 21 kBtu/sqft/year, so overall the school uses a net EUI of 7 kBtu/sqft/year.

zero net energy
Credit: David Wakely

Bishop O’Dowd High School Center for Environmental Studies (ZNE VERIFIED)
The Center for Environmental Studies is a standout project demonstrating how ZNE can be achieved while interweaving the building with the site. An integrated community design process included a charrette with environmental science students who camped out on the site and recorded their findings into a site analysis that became the basis for passive design strategies. To extend the “living lab” learning, all energy use, production, and domestic water and rainwater use are monitored and displayed on a building dashboard as well as online. The building utilizes natural ventilation and heating only. The architecture was key in making this approach work, and still deliver a thermally comfortable space. The school currently operates at a gross EUI of 18 kBtu/sqft/year, and produces an EUI of 19 kBtu/sqft/year, so overall the school uses a net positive EUI of -1 kBtu/sqft/year.

ZNE LEADERS are both individuals who inspire others on the path to ZNE and project teams that work effectively together to achieve ZNE goals.

Alexis Karolides, Point Energy Innovations (INDIVIDUAL ZNE LEADERSHIP
Alexis Karolides’s career focus has been on promoting and leading teams to develop super-efficient buildings. Alexis is presently leading four ZNE school projects at Point Energy. Alexis has led teams through integrative design and collaboration across disciplines to realize step-change reductions in energy, water use, and waste production. An example of Alexis’ impact on a school is her role in guiding the Newcastle Elementary School ZNE retrofit project toward deeper efficiency utilizing natural daylighting and ultimately creating quieter, more comfortable learning environments. The small rural Newcastle Elementary School project is expected to achieve an EUI of 14 kBtu/sqft/year in a retrofit project, while providing 100% daylighting, views outside to trees, good air quality, quiet mechanical systems, and 100% clean renewable onsite energy.

Sonoma Academy’s AEC Team (TEAM ZNE LEADERSHIP)
This AEC team is changing the status quo, taking an integrated approach in every step of the design-build-post-occupancy process, including educating the community, empowering stakeholders and policy makers, and challenging their own industries to target multiple benchmarks. The team included Rick Theis of Sonoma Academy; Pauline Souza of WRNS Studio; Courtney Lorenz from XL Construction; Hormoz Janssens of Interface Engineering; and, David Kaneda from Integral Group. Sonoma Academy developed an ambitious agenda for its new Guild & Commons project, embracing three benchmark systems–LEED Platinum, Living Building Challenge, and zero net energy. Designed to help students be critical thinkers and practical doers, the Guild & Commons building is a story of the region’s architecture, landscape, people, sustainability, and everyday life. The project is projected to achieve a net positive EUI of -4.85 kBtu/sqft/year.