Carl Servais, TLCD’s Education Practice Leader, and Tyree Vantrease, Project Architect in the Education Studio, attended the 44th annual CASH Conference for School Facilities in Sacramento. The event draws school facility and industry professionals together for networking and workshops focused on trends in K-12 design and construction. This year’s conference featured over 60 workshops on a wide range of topics.
Equity and Inclusion
One workshop featured a panel of design professionals, consultants, and the director of the Sacramento Unified School District focusing on how to redefine the traditional facilities planning model in favor of an equity-based approach. Research has shown that school facilities are critical for student success, and traditional planning models have disadvantaged students of color and lower income households. Often, capital improvement funds are spent in affluent communities while neglecting neighborhoods or districts with the greatest need for improved facilities. The seminar was eye-opening by providing specific examples identifying historical inequity in one district and action steps being taken to rectify them. It also provided a challenge to us as design leaders to be willing to ask our clients difficult questions and to participate in helping to bring about change where we are able by being involved in our community and with the stakeholders who will be using the projects we design.
At TLCD, our Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee works to provide officewide education on issues of social justice and to create connections to underserved and minoritized people and organizations within our community. One way this has manifested in our design work is through the inclusion of an all-access restroom in a new classroom building at a TK-6 school in Santa Rosa. At CASH, the California Department of Education (CDE) presented their work in putting together a resource page with background information, planning and design resources, laws and regulations, and references for the implementation of gender-inclusive restrooms in K-12 schools. There was lively discussion about lessons learned and best practices that will help us improve the design of our current and future all-access restrooms.
The Path to Net Zero
At TLCD, the Green AF group leads our sustainable design efforts and we are proud to have signed on to the AIA 2030 Commitment with the goal for all projects to be carbon neutral by 2030. At CASH, we are always able to learn from the success of our peers, and this year was no different. One workshop presented a case study of an all-electric child development center projected to be LEED Platinum. The project team utilized a number of strategies to help get the project to net zero energy use that involved thoughtful site placement, utilizing existing site features like mature trees for shading, and placing the building to take advantage of solar exposure for PV arrays. The building also utilizes passive cooling strategies to allow for thermal comfort not totally reliant on mechanical systems. The design team stressed the importance of early goal setting as a critical component for the project and a good takeaway for us at TLCD.
At another workshop, folks from the Division of the State Architect (DSA) presented some of the new code requirements that came into effect in January, including the prescriptive requirement for solar PV and battery storage systems. At TLCD, we have been anticipating these new code requirements and several of our most recent projects have incorporated PV and battery storage into the early planning and design, in addition to utilizing best practices for optimizing the performance of the building envelope to reduce demand. It was helpful to hear some of the more nuanced interpretations of the code from DSA, which will help us avoid surprises down the road for our school district clients.