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Los Angeles Schools Leap Ahead with $Billions in Green Construction

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) launches billions in new green schools.

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green schools Innovation encompasses more than design. It includes the vision, the plan, the teamwork and the implementation, especially when the project is as large as the Los Angeles Unified School District's current building renaissance. The second largest school district in the United States, The Los Angeles Unified School District spreads across 710 square miles of inner cities, deserts, rolling hills and suburbs. It has been called a behemoth, top heavy and inefficient, controversial and downright impossible to manage. Maligned and magnificent, its numbers alone evoke both wonder and disbelief. Of the District’s 708,000 students, 73 percent are Hispanic, 11.4 percent are Black, 3.8 percent are Asian and 8.8 percent are Caucasian. It teaches the English language to almost half - 315,400 students - who speak 88 different languages. Many of its 13,000 buildings (1,059 schools) are in disrepair. Most of them, built over a half century ago, have had little or no renovation.

Perhaps the most unanticipated and impactful of its activities – one which only a school district of the size of LAUSD could undertake – is its school construction and renovation program. This multi-year endeavor, valued at almost $20 billion, is by far the largest ever undertaken by a school district. By 2012 it will deliver approximately 180,000 new seats in 145 new schools. Some 20,000 renovation projects will be completed.

The program came to life in 1997, when voters allocated $2.4 billion for modernization of facilities and addition of classroom space. New bond measures were passed in 1998 ($4 billion), 2002 ($3.5 billion from the city and a portion of a $13.05 billion statewide bond), 2004 ($9.2 billion), 2005 ($3.985 billion).

Adding to that, in November 2006, a statewide K-12 and university facilities bond act was passed providing an additional $10.41 billion (see related article on Proposition 1D), which includes $100 million for high performance (green) school construction statewide.

So far, 186 projects have been completed, including 65 new schools that provide 2,650 classrooms; 64 schools are being designed or in approval processes.

Joseph “Guy” Mehula, LAUSD’s chief facilities executive, and the 5,000 people who work at the Facilities Support Division, are trying to embrace the enormity of the construction project and grasp that in the midst of this building boom LAUSD decided that all its new schools must be high performance schools. The District mandated that every school designed after the year 2003, about 64 schools, will be designed to meet the tough sustainability standards set forth by the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS).

Ying Wang heads up the high performance schools program at LAUSD, reporting to Mehula. An architect who is passionate about green schools, she helped structure the CHPS point system that leads to school certification. “The best part of CHPS,” she says, “is that if you integrate it very early (in the design phase) it won’t necessarily cost extra money.”

This excerpt is just a hint of the in-depth report found in the lengthy feature article published in Green Technology's newsletter. If you do business with the schools, this article is filled with insights, trends and facts that will be beneficial to your green business development. Green Technology: High Performance Schools

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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