Green School Upgrades
(09/29/2010)

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Twenty-seven school districts statewide received a portion of $27.8 million in state funding from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s most recent round of energy efficient project grants.

The funds, which come from a $100 million Washington State Legislature appropriation set aside earlier this year for energy saving projects at K-12 public schools and higher education institutions, will be used for upgrades to HVACs, lighting, building envelops, and other systems.

The OSPI, which has awarded public K-12 school districts more than $42 million in the first two rounds of this competitive grant program, is responsible for half of the state appropriation. The state’s Department of Commerce will administer the remaining $50 million to K-12 public schools and colleges and universities.

The major differences between the two programs is the OSPI grants target K-12 schools and require performance-based contracting, or a construction firm that guarantees a maximum building cost and a minimum energy savings, says Patricia Jatczak, a program development manager at OSPI.

Dan Aarthun, manager of capital programs for Washington’s Department of Commerce, says the grants administrated by his department focus on K-12 and higher ed projects that use both performance-based and non-performance-based contracting, as long as the firms follow building guidelines set out by the state’s Department of General Administration. Additionally, the commerce department sets aside five percent of the grant monies per round for small school districts (those with 1,000 students or less). Having allocated some $16.6 million for energy projects in the first round, the commerce department will announce winners in the second round the first week of October, says Aarthun.

School districts conducted energy audits of their facilities to identify sustainable projects in order to qualify for the funds. The school districts receiving these funds will augment them with local dollars. 

Construction will begin this fall for the majority of the projects funded by the OSPI’s second round. At the Lake Washington School District, located in King County, $1.9 million received will support upgrades to HVAC and lighting systems. In the Issaquah School District, also based in King County, $1.3 million of grant monies will go toward HVAC, lighting, and water conservation projects.

“This second set of grant awards continues to reach out to all areas of the state and will result in more than $73 million in construction,” says Washington’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn.

School districts participating in the second round of funding estimate $3.1 million in utility incentives for their projects.

The deadline to participate in the OSPI’s third round of grants, estimated at about $7.5 million, is Oct. 22, 2010.

In 2009, the OSPI distributed $16.9 million to 60 districts in 24 counties as part of a similar project called the Energy Efficiency Grant Program.

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