Featured Better Buildings Solutions

Mt. Washington Elementary School in Kentucky was selected by Bullitt County Public School District (BCPS) to undergo a major renovation of the HVAC system, lighting, and indoor air quality. The 1.5-year project resulted in an annual energy savings of 32 percent and annual cost savings of $28,000.

Parkway West High School in Chesterfield, Missouri conducted a retro-commissioning study that suggested performance and indoor quality upgrades. After building improvements, the project achieved an annual energy savings of 27 percent and an annual cost savings of $98,600.

River Trails Middle School in Mt. Prospect, Illinois implemented an upgrade of the HVAC controls and retro-commissioned the building systems. The project resulted in a 27 percent annual energy savings and an $18,900 annual cost savings.

Santee Education Complex was selected by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUS) to undergo a comprehensive audit after it was identified as the second highest energy consuming facility in the district. As a result of recommissioning building systems and installing energy conservation measures, the facility achieved an energy savings of 29% and cost avoidance of $226,000.

The District of Columbia Department of General Services (DGS) implemented their solar energy project using a power purchase agreement (PPA). The portfolio included schools, hospitals, recreation centers, and other buildings. This work created 140 jobs during installation, produces about 13,800 MWh annually, and is expected to save $25 million in taxpayer dollars over its lifetime. 

Vista Peak Preparatory in Aurora, Colorado was selected by the Aurora Public School District undergo a 14-month recommissioning of the HVAC system to maximize energy savings potential. The project is estimated to realize a 20 percent EUI reduction and an annual energy cost savings of $54,000.

Warner Middle School in Xenia, Ohia is the only middle school in the nine-building portfolio of the Xenia Community School District. The district identified two main savings opportunities in the Warner facilities: upgrading garage lighting to LEDs and an energy service agreement to include building HVAC controls. The 14 month project resulted in an annual energy savings of 16 percent and annual cost savings of $27,500.

For other low carbon technology strategies, see approaches ranging from simple to advanced options for Primary Schools and Secondary Schools. Low and zero carbon strategies can saves money, creates jobs, and leads to a healthier environment and more resilient economy. 

HVAC Maintenance & Operations for IAQ

Standard 180-2018 Standard Practice for Inspection and Maintenance of Commercial Building HVAC Systems (.pdf)

ASNI/ASHRAE/ACCA standard practice for the inspection and maintenance of commercial building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. The document describes the minimum acceptable levels of maintenance in order to provide consistency and improve thermal comfort, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality .  


Testing, Adjusting, and Balancing HVAC Systems: An Overview of Certification Agencies (.pdf)

A report by UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center describes the benefits of using a certified contractor to verify, test, and adjust HVAC systems to make sure that equipment is functioning properly. 


NEMI Ventilation Verification Specification

Ventilation verification is a physical assessment the existing HVAC system. It is performed by skilled, trained, and certified technicians to check if there is adequate ventilation in buildings. This specification by the National Energy Management Institute (NEMI) can be used by schools as a template to require ventilation verification within their buildings when not required by code. 


EPA IAQ Tools for Schools Ventilation Checklist (.pdf)

A checklist for facility staff to systematically assess ventilation equipment performance and identify deficiencies. The checklist covers various aspects of HVAC systems, including: outdoor air intakes, system cleanliness, outdoor air supplies, air distribution, exhaust systems, and the amount of outdoor air ventilation. 


EPA Framework for Effective School IAQ Management 

EPA Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Tools for Schools provides guidance and resources to help schools develop an effective IAQ management program. It provides technical solutions to common IAQ problems in schools. The Framework describes actions and strategies that schools can take, and also case studies for reference. 


Efficient HVAC Technologies and Approaches

Advanced Energy Design Guide for K-12 School Buildings: Achieving Zero Energy 

This Guide offers contractors and designers the tools needed for achieving energy efficient schools, including recommendations for practical products and off-the-shelf technology. This Guide was developed through the collaboration of ASHRAE, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), with support from the Department of Energy (DOE), to help meet all of an owner's energy performance requirements. 


NREL Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide (.pdf)

This Guide provides practical ways to improve energy efficiency, from existing building commissioning to whole-building retrofit. It includes general project planning guidance, as well as more detailed descriptions for many energy efficiency measures. The Guide also provides energy and cost savings estimates based on simulations for five climate zones to illustrate the financial payback of energy efficiency measures. 


DOE Zero Energy Schools

Resources from the Zero Energy Schools Accelerator, which had a goal to make zero energy K-12 schools mainstream while enhancing the educational environment. The website provides resources, solutions, and technologies to help schools achieve zero energy goals.  


CHPS Core Criteria v3

The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) provides criteria for new construction and major renovation. The CHPS Criteria is designed to help school districts reduce operating costs, create the best possible learning environment, be energy efficient, and minimize overall environmental impact. The national set of standards are customized for specific geographic areas in partnership with local or state organizations. 


Energy Savings Plus Health: Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for School Building Upgrades (.pdf)

A guidebook by USEPA that recommends ways to manage energy efficiency upgrades and indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools. It encourages integrating energy efficiency and IAQ protection goals so that schools can achieve strong results in both areas. Schools can use this guide to improve occupant health during energy efficiency upgrades and building renovations. 


Ongoing Energy Monitoring and Data Analytics

Smart Energy Analytics Campaign Toolkit 

DOE’s Smart Energy Analytics Campaign (2016-2020) provides technical resources (specifications and procurement support materials), webinars, case studies, and other materials to promote the use of energy management and information systems (EMIS) to save energy and improve building performance.  


Building Re-tuning by Pacific Northwest National Library (PNNL) 

Re-tuning describes an approach to detect energy savings opportunities and implement low-cost changes for buildings with and without Building Automation Systems (BAS). Online training materials and publications are available to guide schools and other building types to improve both energy performance and occupant comfort. 


ENERGY STAR Guidelines for Energy Management 

The ENERGY STAR Guidelines for Energy Management provides a proven strategy for creating an energy management program focused on continuous improvement of energy performance. Continuous improvement of energy performance requires establishing effective energy management practices and processes to guide the energy program.  Any organization, regardless of size, function, or mission can develop an effective energy program if they are willing to make the commitment. 


EPA Air Sensor Toolbox

This EPA resources cover a wide range of topics related to using sensors to measure outdoor and indoor air quality. It provides practical information on how to understand sensor data readings, guidance on how to site and install sensors, and how to evaluate sensor performance. 


Team Approach to Support Strategic Investment in Efficient and Healthy Schools

Getting to Zero: Zero Energy Schools Stakeholder Engagement and Messaging

New Buildings Institute (NBI) document to help schools practice effective communication in order to engage stakeholders in designing, constructing, and operating zero energy buildings. It identifies key stakeholders and drivers that motivate decision making to support successful outcomes. 


EPA IAQ Tools for Schools Communication Guide (.pdf)

The Communication Guide helps schools to increase awareness of indoor air quality (IAQ( issues among students, parents, staff, and the community. It describes how schools can highlight their progress made toward a healthier indoor environment. It provides examples of how good communication can help schools gain the support they need from key stakeholders to improve IAQ in their buildings. 


Getting to Zero: Zero Energy Integrated Design Charrette Toolkit for Schools

New Buildings Institute (NBI) provides materials to help schools plan a successful process to build consensus, formalize the project vision, and guide the design to achieve energy efficiency and sustainability goals. The toolkit includes templates and checklists that schools can use as reference materials. 


Five Guiding Principles: How Schools Can Use American Rescue Plan Funding to Ensure Healthy, Resilient Facilities for Students and Reduce Energy Costs and Emissions

This report by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council and UndauntedK12 provides schools with a framework and concrete ideas for how to use Federal emergency COVID relief funds to make durable investments in facilities, so that these one-time investments can yield benefits for years to come. 


Other Resources

Financing Efficient and Healthy Retrofits 

U.S. Department of Energy summarizes approaches to access capital and financing energy-efficiency projects in schools. The list features federal and state resources, internal financing, debt financing, leasing arrangements, and energy service performance contracts among others.  


Healthy Indoor Environments in Schools On-Demand Webinars 

USEPA has a series of webinars on the principles and best practices for maintaining healthy learning environments with a focus on reducing risks for airborne infectious disease spread. 


National Council on School Facilities - Facilities Planning Training Videos 

The National Council on School Facilities has prepared informational videos to support effective practices for facilities planning. In addition to the training videos, examples of each type of plan are also available for schools as a reference. 


U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Recognition is awarded to schools, districts, and institutions of higher education that reduce environmental impacts and costs; improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.  


CHPS School Ventilation for COVID-19 

The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) outlines operation strategies, and design strategies for renovations and new buildings, to improve ventilation, filtration, and indoor air quality. The document also describes funding opportunities for schools.  


Zero Net Energy School Retrofit Trainings 

New Buildings Institute offers webinars and workshops on how existing K-12 school and community college buildings in California achieved zero net energy performance. Slides and recordings are from 2018. 


The Process for Zero Energy K-12 Schools: The Next Series of ASHRAE Advanced Energy Design Guides

This is a seminar series on how to achieve the zero target through practical approaches including HVAC design. Talks include successful zero energy case studies, as presented at the 2018 ASHRAE Winter Conference. 


Association for Learning Environments - Educational Facility Planner

The Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) connects professionals and supports the planning and design process for school facilities. A4LE Educational Facility Planner houses articles on school facilities planning and design.