California Launches 7x7x7 School Sustainability Initiative

LOS ANGELES — California’s State Architect Chester A. Widom, FAIA, earlier this month launched a forward-thinking new sustainability initiative. Dubbed 7x7x7: Design, Energy, Water, the initiative will engage seven experienced architecture firms to develop seven case studies in sustainable school design for seven representative school campuses, according to a statement by the California Department of General Services (DGS).

While the state has made significant headway in incorporating sustainability into the design and construction of new school buildings and campuses, “for every new sustainable school building constructed, there are thousands of existing buildings with plenty of life left in them that have the potential to be far more energy- and water-efficient,” according to the initiative’s website. In response, the initiative will capitalize on this potential and reimagine how existing schools can be renovated to enhance the learning environment and reduce energy and water usage.

In order to inspire this conversation across the state, the Division of the State Architect (DSA) — a branch of the DGS — engaged seven architectural firms to develop seven conceptual case studies in school design that will reduce energy and water consumption and result in a better learning environment on seven campuses including K–12 schools and a community college. The seven schools selected for the case studies are representative of typical building types from different eras constructed throughout California, according to a statement by the DSA.

The initiative kicked off with a regional event in Los Angeles that highlighted ways to green California’s aging school facilities using design concepts that reduce energy and water consumption. Widom led the event, which included a case study presentation and discussions at Los Angeles’ Southwest College. He said in a statement that “the ultimate goal of 7x7x7 is to initiate a conversation among school superintendents, school facilities personnel, boards of education, and other key decision makers for school construction, so that we all reimagine together how schools can be renovated to reduce energy and water usage and create great opportunities for education.”

A preview of the conceptual case studies will be presented at four regional events at schools of architecture in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo and Berkeley. A final report, to include an executive summary and the completed case studies, will be presented at a final “call to action” event in Sacramento, Calif., on Feb. 23. Participating firms include Aedis Architecture, headquartered in San Jose, Calif.; Omaha-headquartered DLR Group, with multiple offices throughout the state; Hamilton + Aitken of San Francisco; Minneapolis-based HGA with four California locations; Sacramento-headquartered Lionakis; Ehrlich Architects of Culver City, Calif.; and WRNS Studio of San Francisco.