Green School Design in California

It’s important that your chosen Architect is committed to helping you achieve optimal design solutions that address this important issue at your district/school. Among our primary design goals for each project is the specification of quality, sustainable building materials and the incorporation of energy efficient utilities systems. With 11 LEED Accredited Professionals on staff and a history of involvement with organizations like the US Green Building Council and the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, Darden Architects is on the leading-edge of sustainable design. Here’s a run-down of the Codes, Funding Sources, and Recognition Programs we see most often in school design in California:


“Title 24” – California Energy Code (Mandatory!)

Title 24 is a colloquial term used to refer to the California energy code, which has been fairly easy to meet until 2013. There was such a dramatic shift in 2013 to the extent that even the energy modeling software had to be upgraded significantly to properly assess energy use outcomes. The efficiency standards had raised roughly 25% from 2010. This is a precursor to the move towards non-residential net-zero energy use for all new buildings in 2030.  Our design teams remain current on all energy code requirements and ensure they are met with each project. Learn more HERE


CALGreen (Mandatory for all New Construction!)

CALGreen is short for the California Green Building Standards Code that defines mandatory design measures related to Site Development, Water Use, Building Maintenance and Operation, Pollutant Control, Air Quality, Environmental Comfort, Etc. Since 2013 all new buildings submitted to DSA for review as a single project or series of increments must comply with CALGreen. Our firm maintains an excellent relationship with DSA and has endeavored to comply with these design measures from their inception. Learn more HERE

Edison High School Academic Building - 2

The Edison High School Academic Building in Fresno Unified School District received funding through Savings By Design.

Savings By Design

Savings By Design is a statewide incentive program offered by PG&E to encourage high-performance new building design and construction. Qualifiying for Savings by design begins at efficiency levels approximately 10% higher than current Title 24 standards. Qualification involves engaging with the PG&E representative prior to design to influence direction, then the building must be tested using an energy model to factor in all High performance design features, including glass used, insulation, pumps, filters, HVAC and energy management systems. The resulting report is assigned a corresponding percentage and the owner is provided funding based on incremental cost of efficiency upgrades and the level of energy conserved. This is still an active program with which Darden has a great deal of experience. We are working to put this program into effect on every project that would be eligible. Learn more HERE


Prop 39

The California Clean Energy Jobs Act (Prop. 39): Under this initiative, roughly up to $550 million annually is available for appropriation by the Legislature for eligible projects to improve energy efficiency and expand clean energy generation in schools. Eligible local educational agencies (LEAs) — including county offices of education, school districts, charter schools and state special schools—can request funding by submitting an energy expenditure plan application to the California Energy Commission. Darden Architects is on the cutting edge of energy efficient solutions for K-12 schools and is prepared to support your school or district in pursuing funding through Proposition 39. Learn more HERE



Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) is basically a third-party certification program through the US Green Building Council (USGBC). It is a nationally accepted organization for design, operation and construction of high performance green buildings. Darden Architects has 11 LEED® Accredited Professionals on staff, and is capable of guiding a project through the LEED® certification process. Current design project: the Yosemite Community College District New District Office building will be both LEED® Silver and Net-zero energy use. Learn more HERE

New District Office Building_YCCD

The new District Office Building for Yosemite Community College District will receive LEED certification and be a Net-Zero energy use building.


A net-zero energy building (NZEB), or net zero building, is a building with zero net energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. The current Energy Code will become more rigid over time towards a 2030 goal of Net-Zero for all non-residential new building construction. Our experience has shown the most cost-effective steps toward a reduction in a building’s energy consumption usually occur during the design process. Passive Solar building design, highly efficient equipment/utilities systems and other energy saving features combined with solar paneling can contribute to a Net-Zero energy use building. If requested, Darden Architects is prepared to support your goals in this area. Learn more HERE



The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) program goal is to help schools and districts commit to building high performance schools, track their progress, and receive recognition on their accomplishments. Darden Architects is familiar with the CHPS program and the grant state funding program that was linked to it, High Performance Incentive (HPI) Grants. Learn more HERE


HPI Grants (Program Discontinued)

The High Performance Incentive (HPI) was a supplemental grant available on projects with high performance attributes, such as energy efficiency, water conservation, and other sustainable building elements. Unfortunately, effective January 1, 2015, as a result of Senate Bill 869 Chapter 39, Statutes of 2014, the State Allocation Board (SAB) can no longer allocate or approve High Performance Incentive (HPI) grants, and the program’s remaining fund balance has been transferred to the New Construction and Modernization programs. Learn more HERE

Featured Services

Sustainable Design
Read About It »
Educational Planning & Programming
Read About It »

We'll See You There

CASH 44th Annual Conference
February 22-24, 2023

We are looking forward to attending the CASH 44th Annual Conference at the Sacramento Convention Center on February 22-24, 2023

Skip to content