Districts, Projects, Individuals Honored for Driving ZNE in New and Existing School Projects in California

Three exemplary individuals, school districts and school projects were honored with ZNE Schools Leadership Awards Wednesday evening 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 80 ultra-low and zero net energy (ZNE) schools operating or underway.

To showcase leadership and innovation 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, now in its fourth year. Carl Smith of Green Technology presented the awards during the 2019 Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit in Pasadena, California. New Buildings Institute (NBI) is administering the program on behalf of the IOUs and CPUC.

An esteemed judging panel of industry representatives selected the ZNE School Leadership Award winners. Consideration was given to demonstrated achievement on attaining or being on track to achieve ZNE performance, or is providing leadership and a model for others. The 2019 winners include:

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

San Bernardino Community College District, San Bernardino, CA
San Bernardino Community College District (SBCCD) is the only Southern California Community College District in the Proposition 39 Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Schools Pilot Program. They have achieved 10 LEED-certified buildings, including two platinum facilities. In 2018, they were awarded a California Higher Education Sustainability Conference best-practice award for innovation and sustainability. The team at San Bernardino has worked tirelessly to identify and implement energy conservation measures that help them achieve ZNE. One recent example is the design of an optimized lighting retrofit in just two months, and the installation of 480 fixtures and over 250 controls over only nine weekends.

Across the district, San Bernardino Community College is on a path to zero. Their efforts thus far demonstrate the importance of addressing sustainability in their daily operations, not only to provide environmental stewardship, but also provide the opportunity for students to gain the knowledge and skills to help create a clean energy future.

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

Mark Day School, San Rafael, CA
The Mark Day School Learning Commons and Administration building in San Rafael, CA, is the fifth ZNE school by the same design team of Integral Group and EHDD Architecture. The project team focused on strategies that are basic, well executed, and easily understood. Time after time, this team has shown that these simple solutions work and can be replicated easily throughout the building industry to promote the design of ZNE schools in California and beyond. Strategies include optimized orientation, daylighting, sun shading, high performance insulation, natural cross ventilation, along with an all-electric mechanical system including heat pumps with heat recovery ventilation and a dashboard for occupant engagement and education. The resulting project reflects the continuing evolution and refinement of previous ZNE building practices, creating a new blueprint for ZNE structures and systems. Schools such as Mark Day are defining a new industry standard.

Individuals who inspire others on the path to ZNE and project teams that work effectively together to achieve ZNE goals.

Nik Kaestner, Director of Sustainability, San Francisco Unified School District, CA
Nik Kaestner is the first Director of Sustainability at the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). Since 2008, Nik has collaborated with teachers, students, and staff to develop a nationally recognized sustainable schools program. Since he was hired, SFUSD’s energy use has dropped by 22%, water usage is down 29%, and waste diversion has doubled to 66%. SFUSD has been widely recognized as a Green Ribbon district by the US Department of Education and the “Best of Green Schools” award for industry transformation from the USGBC’s Center for Green Schools.

SFUSD has completely transformed the process by which it designs, constructs, and modernizes its buildings in order to be carbon neutral by 2040. Nik has championed SFUSD’s drive to zero so that all new buildings must achieve ZNE-ready status, existing building modernizations must be assessed to identify a pathway to ZNE over two bond cycles, and all deferred maintenance projects must adhere to a strict set of guidelines to ensure compliance with their ambitious goals. SFUSD’s first new ZNE school is Claire Lilienthal School on Divisadero Street. SFUSD has seven other ZNE-ready new buildings and other modernization projects are in design or starting construction. Nik has also been instrumental in establishing clear goals for procuring electric and renewably fueled vehicles in the District’s vehicle fleet to expand their carbon neutrality efforts.

Learn more at https://newbuildings.org/zne-awards/

With energy bills at California’s K-12 public schools totaling more than $700 million a year, according to the California Energy Commission (CEC) Consumer Energy Center, innovative energy-saving solutions are needed to manage costs. Schools built and renovated to ZNE performance have substantially lower energy costs and over time save money on energy bills that can be spent on students and programs. In addition, K-12 schools and community colleges represent key opportunities for ZNE projects. New ZNE schools already exist in many states across the country and a variety of climate zones, with some of the best examples being built for the average costs of traditional school construction. As local examples of the feasibility and benefits of ZNE continue to increase, schools are an important platform to educate the broader public about sustainability, and demonstrate a commitment to reducing climate impacts.

The California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan has set ambitious goals for achieving zero net energy (ZNE) for all new commercial buildings by 2030. To support these ambitious state goals, a Proposition 39 ZNE School Retrofit Pilot Program is providing California’s existing schools financial resources that can help transform some of the state’s K-12 and community college buildings to ZNE. The ZNE Schools Awards program and workshop are part of this Proposition 39 pilot effort and is supported by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas Company. The Proposition 39 ZNE School Pilot Program includes new schools case studies, ZNE trainings, and financial and technical support for a variety of school retrofit demonstration projects to showcase how existing K-12 school and community colleges can be transformed to ZNE performance.

This program is funded by California utility customers and administered by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas Company under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission, through a contract awarded to New Buildings Institute. The trademarks used herein are the property of their respective owners.