California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Sustainable (Green) Building

High Performance Schools

According to the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS), "Nearly 6.2 million children, teachers, and administrators, 1/5 of California's population, spend their day inside a school." With such a large portion of the population spending so much time inside schools, both the design and the construction of high performance schools are gaining popularity.

What are high performance schools?

High performance schools join together the very best of today's design strategies and building technologies, as well as:

  • Provide a healthy and comfortable indoor environment.
  • Conserve energy, resources, and water.
  • Function as a teaching tool.
  • Serve as a community resource for neighborhood meetings and functions.
  • Ensure easy maintenance and operation.
  • Create a safe and a secure educational atmosphere.

Also, high performance schools are cost-effective and help to protect the environment.

K-12 Schools

The California Department of Education (CDE) estimates that between 2009 and 2014 21,989 total new classrooms or 4,400 classrooms per year (12 per day) are needed to accommodate the projected number of unhoused K-12 students in the state. Over that same period, CDE estimates that 35,413 existing classrooms will need modernization. Over that five year period, $2.28 billion per year in funding will be needed to meet those needs. As school expenses rise, it becomes even more important to find new ways to minimize cost. High performance schools are an innovative and cost-effective alternative in controlling operation and maintenance expenses.

Another challenge facing California's schools is the demand for improved student performance. High performance schools create a better learning environment for children. Recent studies show a direct link between high performance design features and increased test scores. To provide an optimum learning environment, it is necessary to include high performance design concepts in the construction and modernization of California's schools.

Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS)

Organized in 2000, the Collaborative for High Performance Schools is a collaborative of government agencies, utilities, manufacturers, building professionals, and nonprofits that are working to improve the quality of California's schools. Since then CHPS has become a national program that has developed standards for the design and construction of high performance schools in 13 states. CA-CHPS was developed as criteria specifically for high performance schools in California.

CHPS offers a Best Practices Manual to assist architects, engineers, and school administrators in designing and building schools that offer an enhanced learning environment for children. CHPS Volume III, Criteria, provides a checklist for schools to self-certify that they have achieved "high performance" status. For information on school district's that are using the CHPS guidelines, visit the CHPS website.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)

On February 16, 2000, LAUSD's Sustainable Schools Workshop developed a sustainability plan for future district school facilities. A year later, the Los Angeles City Board of Education unanimously adopted a High Performance Schools Resolution formalizing their commitment to sustainable design. As part of that commitment, LAUSD formed a High Performance Schools Work Group that has been working with the Collaborative for High Performance Schools to develop design criteria so that all newly constructed and renovated LAUSD schools are high performance schools. On February 28, 2003, LAUSD adopted another resolution (PDF, 75 KB) to reaffirm their commitment to design and construct high performance schools.

Additional K-12 Schools Programs and Reports

Last updated: December 12, 2012
Green Building
Greg Dick:  (916) 341-6489