DALLAS — All 40 replacement or rebuilt schools in Houston Independent School District’s $1.89 billion bond program will meet strict environmental guidelines for sustainability and efficiency, officials said.
They say schools funded by the bond program approved by Houston voters in November will meet the high standards promised by the district in the election campaign.
Sustainability goals for the capital improvement effort will be developed at next week’s meeting of architectural and engineering teams working on 24 schools in the first and second phases.
Dan Bankhead, general manager for facilities design at the Houston district, said the engineers and architects will be “challenged and inspired” at the workshop set for July 29.
Topics will include water-collection systems, recyclable materials, and healthier learning and teaching spaces, Bankhead said.
“Sustainability is an important part of 21st century learning environments,” he said. “Hopefully (the teams) will come away with what the district’s sustainability mission is, along with the minimum chart of sustainability points that we expect them to achieve on projects.”
The environmentally sound schools built with proceeds from the district’s 2007 bonds did not cost more than conventional facilities, Bankhead said.
“The strategic sustainable design approaches used by our designers, the early planning to incorporate sustainability, and the very competitive construction market enjoyed during that period all contributed to the favorable unit costs,” he said. “There are no premium costs for sustainability.”
Seventeen schools built under the district’s $805 million bond program approved in 2007 are certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards program of the U.S. Green Building Council.
The design workshop is being conducted at Berry Elementary School, which has achieved the silver certification. The school is projected to realize a 38% reduction in water usage and a 25% drop in energy consumption.
Schools funded by the 2012 bond program, including 29 high schools, are expected to receive a silver certification at least.
Sustainability and environmental design have many benefits, said Gavin Dillingham, manager of energy and sustainability for the Houston school district.
“Building and maintaining high-performance buildings is very important in allowing the district to reduce its energy and water consumption and to lower maintenance costs over the long-term," he said.
Construction on the bond-funded schools is expected to get under way next year.
The capital project will be completed over the next six to eight years to help control costs. The district will gradually phase in a 4.85-cent property tax rate increase over the next five years.
The 2012 bond program also includes $100 million in technology upgrades, $44.7 million to replace regional field houses and improve athletic facilities, $35 million to renovate middle school restrooms, and $17.3 million of safety and security improvements.
Houston Independent School District’s $2.5 billion of outstanding GO debt is rated triple-A by Moody’s Investors Service and AA-plus by Standard & Poor’s. The debt is enhanced to triple-A with coverage by the Texas Permanent School Fund.
It is the largest school district in Texas with more than 200,000 students at 276 campuses, and the seventh-largest in the United States.