The San Francisco Unified School District recently won a "2017 Best of Green Schools" award from the U.S. Green Building Council and the Green Schools National Network, partly for its "green" progress in recent years, but mostly for its goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2040. The District has already transformed the process by which it designs, constructs, modernizes, and maintains its buildings.

This award follows on the heels of a U.S. Department of Education award last year for the District's environmental accomplishments, one of only 15 districts in the nation to receive the award.

The District is currently identifying strategies that will allow it to achieve zero net energy (ZNE) for existing buildings, require all new buildings to achieve ZNE-ready status, and require all deferred maintenance projects to adhere to a strict set of ZNE guidelines. All district vehicles will also be required to run on electricity or low-carbon fuels by 2030.

The District has been involved in "green" initiatives for a number of years, one of which is a Shared Savings program with local municipal utilities, which rewards individual school sites for reducing their utility usage by giving them 50 percent of the savings they generate via conservation.

In 2003, the District adopted a policy requiring all new schools to be CHPS-verified (California Collaborative for High-Performance Schools).

The District also conducts on-going energy audits at its largest energy-using sites. Each school also has a staff member who serves as environmental liaison. This person works with students and staff to identify and correct energy "drains." In addition, almost 40 percent of the schools have received Energy Star certification.

Since the schools tend to have very large roofs, the District has been in the process of installing solar panels in recent years, which provide renewable energy for lighting as well as plug loads. In terms of lighting, the District is focusing on new LEDs, solar tubes, and vacancy lighting controls. The District is also moving toward EV charging stations.

Between 2014 and 2015, the District was able to reduce non-transportation energy usage by 15 percent. And, with its new carbon neutral and ZNE strategies, energy usage reductions will continue to accrue.