The Collaborative for High Performance Schools made a new assessment tool for green schools in Colorado available for public use Sept. 21.

 The tool, called the Colorado CHPS Criteria, is a state-specific benchmark system for the design and construction of high-performance school buildings in Colorado that are energy-efficient, comfortable, environmentally responsible and healthy spaces of learning.

“CHPS is here to help Colorado create the best possible schools. With the CO-CHPS criteria, we combine a uniquely customized building standard created specifically for Colorado schools with a robust national organization that will support the work that will go on in Colorado,” said Bill Orr, executive director of CHPS. “We look forward the schools and districts of Colorado taking advantage of all CHPS has to offer.”

A broad-based advisory committee, in partnership with the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office, created the CO-CHPS Criteria to reflect the unique codes and regulations, climates, opportunities and local priorities of the state.

“Energy-efficient schools mean more money stays in the classroom to benefit students, teachers and learning,” said Tom Plant, director of the Governor’s Energy Office in Colorado. “The CHPS criteria represent another important component of Colorado’s New Energy Economy—helping us design schools today that dramatically reduce energy costs long into tomorrow.”

CO-CHPS applies not only to the design and construction of new schools but also to major modernizations and additions to existing school campuses. Schools that pursue recognition using CO-CHPS will be supported by CHPS throughout the design and construction process.

 “The CHPS Board of Directors is excited to help Colorado build a new generation of high-performance schools,” said Chip Fox, chair of the CHPS Board of Directors and new construction manager at Sempra Utilities. “CO-CHPS is another uniquely tailored addition to the CHPS suite of resources that gives schools and districts more options when investing in a green campus.”

For the past year in Colorado, stakeholder participation in the process of developing a customized, locally-flavored high-performance building standard has been high. Representatives from Colorado’s departments of Education, Public Health and the Environment, and Transportation served on the CO-CHPS Advisory Committee. The Colorado Office of the State Architect, four school districts, the Rocky Mountain Institute and several local design and engineering firms also participated.

Colorado CHPS prerequisites, which are design features and strategies required of participating schools, set the most stringent bar yet for any CHPS state. The Colorado committee was able to take many of the lessons learned from other CHPS states and apply them to their adaptation of the CHPS criteria.

“CO-CHPS is a great example of raising the bar to new heights. For instance, CO-CHPS takes a popular credit from many of the other CHPS Criteria—the low-emitting materials credit—and has made it a prerequisite for some products because CHPS has shown that specifying products that improve indoor air quality can be a simple and cost-effective process,” said Orr.

The committee has also focused on operational savings and greenhouse gas emission reduction by expanding and enhancing the CHPS energy category. Participating Colorado schools are required to achieve 25% better than the ASHRAE 90.1-2007 energy efficiency baseline and perform enhanced commissioning measures. A new concept called FLEX Energy, developed by the CO-CHPS committee, provides schools with the tools to design facilities prepared to affordably adapt to changing energy economy scenarios.

Colorado joins 10 other states that offer CHPS criteria, including Texas, New York, Washington, California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island.