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Bill Orr: The Year of the Existing School

Bill Orr, CHPS Executive Director
February CHPS E-bulletin Column

Gung Hay Fat Choy! While 2010 may be the Chinese Year of the Tiger, for CHPS this year is shaping up to be the Year of the Existing School. CHPS is readying the launch of the Operations Report Card (ORC) as a benchmarking and continual improvement tool for existing schools. Additionally, regional tools such as the upcoming Northeast CHPS Operations and Maintenance Guide also will help existing schools become more sustainable, energy efficient, and healthy learning environments.

For a variety of reasons states and school districts are increasingly looking toward modernizing rather than building new schools. Many states have had to reconcile serious budget limitations and shrinking student populations with existing facilities in need of repair. Communities wanting to build a new school run into challenges in states such as Vermont that have suspended state aid for school construction. It may take years for cash-strapped communities to pass a referendum in a town vote to raise funds for school construction. The town of Scituate, Rhode Island is an example of a community that has been working for years to modernize their school buildings. Because of limited resources, the town eventually opted to renovate their middle and high schools.

The state of Rhode Island mandates the use of the Northeast CHPS protocol (NE-CHPS) for all new school construction; however, Scituate opted to voluntarily integrate NE-CHPS into the renovation of these two schools. With a facilities team that was dedicated to high performance design and the support of the state’s school construction program, the schools used NE-CHPS as a guide, focusing on commissioning, energy efficiency, sustainable materials, waste management, and indoor environmental quality. In Washington State, as of June 2009 all schools built that receive state funding are required to be high performance including modernization projects larger than 5,000 square feet.

In California, while state school bond funds for new construction have been largely exhausted, about $1.6 billion in modernization funding and $80 million in high performance incentive funding still remains. After two years the first seven modernization projects will be considered for approval this month. Legislation has already been introduced this year in California, to make the funding more readily accessible for modernizations, and the State Allocation Board is considering options to improve the effectiveness and timeliness of the process. California’s Savings by Design program offers new incentives for CHPS Verified projects and commissioning.
Finally, over the last six months several CHPS partners have been focusing their energies on developing and are now beginning to implement programs for “shovel-ready” school projects under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA.)

Whatever your circumstance it is an excellent time to get involved with CHPS and to make your existing schools high performance.

While 2010 may be the Chinese Year of the Tiger, for CHPS this year is shaping up to be the Year of the Existing School. ~order=2010-02-23
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