Transcending challengesHow DSD helped the San Bernardino City Unified School District make progress on its ambitious sustainability goals, despite multiple obstacles along the way.
The San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD), the seventh-largest in California, pledged to transition to 100% renewable energy at all district facilities by 2024. Through an RFP process, DSD was selected to develop and implement a 5.6 MW canopy portfolio across 16 school sites.
In California, all school districts are required to comply with the Division of the State Architect (DSA). DSA provides design and construction oversight to ensure compliance with California’s building codes, including structural, accessibility, and fire and life safety codes. DSA’s compliance requirements are more rigorous than most states, which created unique challenges for these projects.
Our team creatively designed canopy configurations for unique wind and seismic conditions that meet strict requirements under the California Division of the State Architects (DSA). These projects had soil and wind loading characteristics at some sites violating special hazard zones, which required more design updates. DSD has a design and engineering team dedicated to canopy projects with the expertise needed to address unique design challenges without compromising solar production.
Due to wind and seismic conditions at certain sites, DSD was faced with added safety standards required for DSA approval. DSD worked with DSA to ensure that compliance was met with all structural, accessibility, and fire and life safety codes.
To provide full access to all residents, and to meet DSA and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, wheelchair curbs needed to be installed under certain canopies. DSD worked closely with SBCUSD and DSA to make this happen, providing access to the students and faculty who need it.
In addition to design-specific challenges, much of the development occurred during the pandemic, when the costs of materials required were high. DSD worked closely with the District to lock in cost-effective project pricing and keep the project moving forward.
This solar portfolio is a critical step in allowing SBCUSD to achieve its goal of transitioning to 100% renewable energy at all district facilities by 2024. Besides the positive environmental impacts of using clean energy, the District estimates that when all buildings are equipped with clean energy, it will save an estimated $60 million in electricity costs over the next 30 years. That money will be re-invested to upgrade classrooms and other new campus facilities. The hard work and collaboration that went into these projects and the exceptional impact it will provide to the District have made these projects selected as Top Project of the Year by E+E Leader.
“This portfolio will contribute to the $60 million dollars in savings we’ve estimated in electricity costs over the next 30 years, which we’ll be able to reinvest into upgrading classrooms and other campus facilities. It’s really a big win for the district that will benefit our faculty, students and staff.”
Director of Facilities Planning & Development
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