Parents, Teachers, and Community members contact us with questions about our building program, new technologies they have heard of, sustainability features they would like to see incorporated, and other issues. We began compiling questions here for those that are curious. Feel free to contact us with any other questions you may have.
Construction has already begun. At La Entrada, we brought in portable classrooms the summer of 2014 and 2015, upgraded our PG&E transformer and expanded our lunch area. At Las Lomitas, we acquired a new property and demolished the residential structure on that property. We also reworked our Master Plan for both sites due to the new property acquisition and other needs.
We are are currently planning our first buildings and plan to break ground on new construction at La Entrada in June 2017.
We anticipate our first new classrooms opening at the start of the 2018/19 school year.
The original Master Plan identified $120,000,000 of need between both campuses. Our current bond is for $60,000,000.We anticipate applying for State facilities funds, grants, loans, matching funds, and other means of stretching our dollars to build as much as possible. The current bond is anticipated to be spent by 2020. Priority Two projects would require additional funding via another local bond or a larger state bond program.
Artificial turf was not identified as a necessary component of the original community and school needs assessment in 2012. Therefore the current Master Plan only includes lawn restoration at the end of construction when the portables are removed.
Turf has many advantages including:
Turf also has many drawbacks including:
At this time there are no plans to pursue LEED Certification. LEED is a private company that provides a nice marketing component about the level of environmental conservation components installed in a building. Pursuing LEED certification is an expensive administrative task and is not required to have a "green" building or a building designed with low energy use.
For school construction, there are other environmental classifications that have existed prior to LEED accreditation and meet many of the same requirements. PG&E coordinates a program called Savings By Design and provides grant money for incorporating certain energy saving components in your design. We will be pursuing Savings By Design grants as part of our building program.
The most recent version of the building code has now incorporated many components that were previously part of LEED accreditation. LEED is based on a point system for a certain percentage more efficient than the building code. Therefore, as the building code requires more and more energy efficiency, the LEED points are harder to obtain. Therefore a "LEED Gold" building from a previous code cycle may be less energy efficient than one designed under the current building and energy codes.
The District has already made several water conservation efforts on the maintenance side of running our schools. Those efforts include:
We will explore other options for water conservation as our projects move forward. Those options will include:
There will be continued discussions and investigations into water conservation efforts as our designs develop, especially given our current water problems in the state.
Energy Conservation is continually monitored and evaluated. With large facilities, our energy use and costs are significant. For most Districts, the PG&E bill is the second largest operating expense following payroll. Therefore, we have a financial as well as environmental incentive to save energy. From a maintenance standpoint, we just completed an energy audit and are reviewing changing out current fixtures for LED fixtures which use significantly less energy.
In our new buildings there will be several energy conservation strategies incorporated into the design. Those include:
Once the conservation components are in place, we will look at incorporating solar to offset our remaining electrical load.
Yes, but not in priority one (Measure S). Solar components of the Master Plan have been moved to the future as the primary concern is fulfilling the original intent to replace portable classrooms with hard built classroom spaces. Solar has a large upfront cost with a payback over several years. The current Master Plan needs and Bond funds allow us barely enough money to build classroom spaces so all non-core educational items will be part of future funding sources.
We will be exploring a series of grants and alternate funding models to try and realize the benefits of solar sooner than later. There are some programs including on bill financing, incentives, or energy rebates that help offset those costs and we will try to utilize those programs to stretch and include solar now.
We will design all our buildings so they are "solar-ready" to reduce any future solar retrofit costs. Those measures would include providing excess conduit capacity that will be needed with solar installations, planning for solar panels in the roof design, allowing for inverter space in electrical rooms, and other infrastructure components that will be more cost effective to install when the building is being built.
No. Our decisions have to weigh the cost benefit vs the funds available to implement measures. Under the current rate structures, it is not cost effective to design for a net zero building.
The way PG&E credits solar installations is that it will pay you the retail rate for the energy you produce when you produce it and at the end of the year they will balance that with your use. So schools tend to use a lot of energy in the winter (when it is cheaper) and significantly less in the summer (when energy is expensive and PG&E will reimburse at a higher rate) since we are mostly closed. Due to this imbalance, a school can install enough solar to offset about 80-85% of their energy use and they will offset about 100% of the energy costs. That makes solar a very attractive feature to the school.
While this is works out well economically, it does not work if you offset more than your break even dollar amount. PG&E has a very disadvantageous rate structure in that case. For every kwh of power the school produces beyond net zero dollars, PG&E does not credit you anything. Once you get to net zero power (offsetting 100% or the energy), PG&E will only credit you the wholesale rate for every kwh you produce beyond net zero power so your return drops significantly. The difference can be something like $.16/ kwh at retail rates vs $.02-$.04 at wholesale rates. The cost per KW installed gets very expensive after you have zero'd out your bill financially. We will be looking to include solar at a careful balance to offset our bills and not overproduce so we keep the construction cost at a minimum.
There are also plans for PG&E to change the rate structure at the end of 2015. While it is not determined yet, it will likely be less advantageous than the scenario indicated above and will likely result in higher solar payback costs. There is also currently some county wide discussion about developing a Community Choice Energy Aggregation as well.
At this point we are reviewing those options with the design and modifications of our parking lots. Given our already limited parking facilities, installing dedicated EV spaces may not be viable. We currently do not have enough parking at either site and dedicating EV spaces will further contribute to that problem.
Another challenge is the added cost EV stations bring. In addition to the cost of the charging unit, the infrastructure costs can be quite high for public school construction. Given our current Master Plan funds, any installation would also require grants or other funding options to help defray the installation costs if we do decide to install them.
Regardless of our ultimate decision, whenever possible, we will design to allow for future installation of vehicle charging stations when they become more ubiquitous.