SACRAMENTO — A month after launching the 7x7x7: Design, Energy, Water school and university sustainability initiative, the California Division of the State Architect (DSA) got a first glimpse at how the initiative could soon impact school sustainability efforts. The initiative engaged seven experienced architecture firms to develop seven case studies in sustainable school design for seven representative school campuses. On Feb. 23, the DSA hosted the first architect presentations.
The goal of 7x7x7 is to show the need for not only incorporating sustainability into the design and construction of new school buildings, but also leveraging the thousands of existing school buildings to make them more water and energy efficient, according to a statement by HGA Architects and Engineers (HGA), an integrated architecture, engineering and planning firm with four California offices. The case studies were also intended to help green California’s aging school facilities with design concepts that will reduce energy and water consumption. Conceptual case studies were completed by each architecture firm for their assigned public school and were presented to California legislators, local professionals, education leaders and the office of Gov. Jerry Brown last month in Sacramento.
HGA was the only firm matched with a higher education facility — Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC). The firm was specifically tasked with reducing energy and water usage at the college’s science building. To create a sustainable future for LATTC, HGA recommended multiple solutions that cultivate a positive learning experience, produce more energy than consumed, completely eliminate carbon emissions and significantly reduce water use. HGA’s approach begins with zero energy rather than applying incremental reductions to move towards zero. This net positive approach focuses on key performance targets including human experience, energy carbon, water, waste, materials and best value.
The 1970s-era LATTC campus lacks natural lighting, is a high water user and has not made significant strides toward energy efficiency. HGA’s recommendations went beyond simple low-flow water systems to challenge the way the campus community thinks about water usage holistically. If all of the recommended water solutions were implemented, LATTC could save two million gallons of water per year, roughly equivalent to the amount of drinking water needed for 7,300 people for an entire year, according to the firm.
HGA also recommended solar panels be placed atop the parking canopies, improving the efficiency of the HVAC system, and design strategies that allow additional natural lighting to flow into the building to promote wellness and improve learning. Should LATTC choose to implement all of the study’s recommendations, HGA estimated that the school could save between $80,000 and $200,000 in annual energy costs.
“We need to change the way we’re thinking in order to change what we’re doing,” said Patrick Thibaudeau, vice president of HGA’s sustainable design practice, in a statement. “Our vision for LATTC encompasses small changes schools across the country can implement, which will not only improve efficiency overall, but will advance students’ learning, wellness and productivity.”
“With over 400 higher education institutions in California, the savings from these recommended changes can create an exponential impact on energy and water use,” added Kaveh Amirdelfan, principal on the project, in a statement. “As initially envisioned, such an impact can positively influence student life and pedagogy throughout the state, and also can be implemented throughout various regions in the nation.”