My harsh words for Burbank Unified School District officials over
dual-pane windows left my stomach in knots. I’d rather be an informed
citizen than an angry one, so I called nationally recognized energy
efficiency experts, schools, architects and window manufacturers. I
apologize to architect John Thomas -- I was wrong to attack his
competence, no matter how strongly I disagree with his opinions.
The evidence supporting dual glazing is overwhelming.
“It’s the common denominator of all current designs,” explains
Larry Schoff, an engineer with the EnergySmart Schools program of the
U.S. Department of Energy. “If you don’t incorporate dual glazing in
your renovations, you’re committing to decades of wasted energy and
More than a dozen experts contacted consider dual glazing to be
the standard in today’s design environment, and no one believed seal
failure was an issue. The school district’s dismissal of the
technology is troubling because it indicates a broader lack of
knowledge about today’s energy design practices.
At most schools, the facilities manager is the driving force
behind efficiency improvements. Stuart Reeve, energy manager for the
Poudre School District in Fort Collins, Colo., says, “Technology and
innovative ideas aren’t always in a facility manager’s comfort zone.
A good manager has to be willing to open his mind to the outside
world to find these ideas.”
Ali Kiafar, the school district’s chief facilities and development
superintendent, should be leading the charge for energy efficiency.
As the person overseeing a multimillion-dollar renovation, he should
be consulting nationally recognized experts on high-performance,
energy-efficient school design.
For most schools, energy costs are the biggest annual expense
after salaries. With the growing use of computers and technology in
schools, energy use is also rising. Energy rates are volatile.
Conservation makes sense. An energy-efficient school district can
save hundreds of thousands of dollars in utility costs per year.
BUSD spent approximately $1.3 million on utility costs last year.
A 20% reduction means $260,000 more to spend in our classrooms. What
are we doing to increase our energy efficiency? Have we weighed the
benefits and costs of new technologies? Did we calculate how much
money dual glazing would save us annually before condemning the
Without dual glazing, our new buildings must use high-efficiency
fluorescent lighting and air conditioning to meet state minimum
efficiency standards. Because the standards are based on dual-pane
windows, buildings without them are at a disadvantage and have
difficulty achieving more than minimum levels of efficiency.
Well-designed schools can exceed state minimums. Los Angeles
Unified School District’s Cahuenga Elementary School exceeds them by
30%. How do BUSD’s new buildings compare?
Cahuenga Elementary School used design principles from the
Collaborative For High Performance Schools. CHPS is a coalition of
California utilities, architects and educators that publishes
guidelines for designing schools that boost student performance while
achieving energy efficiency. Ideas include techniques like
daylighting, the practice of allowing natural daylight into
classrooms while keeping hot sunlight out.
The EnergySmart Schools program also publishes guidelines, and
will even send an engineer to our district to evaluate current and
future plans and make suggestions for energy efficiency. “We help
school officials become aware of what other schools across the
country are doing, and educate them about current designs and
technology,” Schoff says. “The program is absolutely free -- it costs
the schools nothing.”
The Poudre School District has received national recognition for
the success of its energy program. Reeve says, “We have a long list
of energy partners that we use to develop new ideas -- they include
businesses, utilities and organizations like EnergySmart Schools.
Sometimes partners bring money to the projects as well.”
Has Kiafar built relationships like these to guide and implement
BUSD’s energy policy? Has he pursued outside financing for these
types of improvements?
Ron Davis, general manager of Burbank Water and Power, wanted to
partner with BUSD. BWP had several hundred thousand dollars available
to fund conservation projects BUSD couldn’t afford. Kiafar and our
school board declined.
Does Burbank High School, with its rows of unshaded, single-pane
windows and mini-blinds shut tightly against the sun, represent our
best effort? I don’t think so. We need to begin building bridges to
the people and organizations that can help us excel: the BWP, the
City Council, EnergySmart Schools and CHPS, to name a few. I have
telephone numbers for these and more. Does anybody want to make a