High Performance Schools

2003 study shows a direct link between high performance school 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.

What are high performance schools?

High performance schools join together design strategies and building technologies that amongst other things:

  • 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.


Under California law, the Division of the State Architect (DSA) develops and enforces the general building standards (code) for the state’s public K-12 schools and Community Colleges. Effective January 1, 2011, the California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen) requires that covered school construction meet a number of requirements designed to make California’s schools more environmentally efficient. Requirements include those for construction waste management, water use efficiency, site management, etc.

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.

Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS)

In 2000, the Collaborative for High Performance Schools was organized as a collaborative of government agencies, utilities, manufacturers, building professionals, nd nonprofits to improve the quality of California’s schools. Since then, CHPS has become a national organization that has developed standards for the design and construction of high performance schools in 13 states. California CHPS (CA-CHPS) was developed as criteria specifically for high performance schools in California.

CHPS offers a Best Practices Manual, which includes the CHPS Criteria for Recycled Content, to assist architects, engineers, and school administrators in designing and building schools that offer an enhanced learning environment for children. Information on school district’s using the CHPS guidelines can be found on the CHPS website.

High Performance Incentive Program (HPI)

The California Division of the State Architect (DSA) manages the High Performance Incentive (HPI) Program which has funding to promote the use of high performance attributes in new construction and modernization projects for K-12 schools. According to DSA, “These attributes include using design and materials that promote energy and water efficiency, minimize and treat runoff after construction, maximize the use of natural lighting, minimize parking lots, improve indoor air quality, use recycled materials and materials that emit a minimum of toxic substances, and employ acoustics that aid in teaching and learning.”

Additional K-12 Schools Programs and Reports