Kelley offers bills to improve energy efficiency of school buildings

School ConstructionBy Bob Eschliman


State Rep. Dan Kelley (D-Newton) has never been shy about his concern for the environment. Now, with two new bills offered last week in the Iowa House, he’s taking action on those concerns.

First, in House File 309, he proposes to require a school district commencing the design or construction of, or commencing the substantial renovation of, an elementary or secondary public school building on or after July 1 of this year to apply for certification of the project pursuant to the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. It also requires a “good-faith effort to meet the minimum standards applicable for achievement of the program’s silver certification level,” but it is encouraged to seek gold or platinum level certifications.

According to studies in construction using LEED-certified products and practices can add as much as 8.5 percent to the cost of construction for platinum-level certification; gold may add up to 5 percent, while silver adds up to 3.5 percent. “Soft costs” – added fees related to LEED certification – can add as much as $150,000 to the cost of a project.

HF 309 also requires all school districts to register their existing elementary or secondary public school buildings for the USGBC’s LEED Existing Buildings Operation and Maintenance Program and to “pursue certification for each school building to the extent practicable.” Other high-performance energy certification programs may be used if they incorporate “comparable certification standards applicable to new building construction or substantial renovation and existing building operation and maintenance.”

If approved, the proposed legislation would require each school district to notify the Iowa Department of Education by Sept. 15 each year regarding the number of projects or buildings for which certification was sought, if any, and the results and level of certification achieved. IDOE would then be required to submit a report to the General Assembly summarizing the information from all of the school districts by Jan. 1 each year.

HF 309 has the support of the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. The Iowa State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, Master Builders of Iowa, and the Area Education Agencies of Iowa are “undecided” on the bill.

Kelley’s second energy-efficiency bill for schools, House File 310, directs the Iowa Utilities Board to establish, coordinate, and fund an energy audit program for each elementary or secondary attendance center in the state. The proposed audits would include, at a minimum:

  • an inspection of the school building,
  • assessment of the building’s current energy efficiency, and
  • recommendations for energy-efficient upgrades or improvements.

HF 310 has a number of “undecided” lobbyist declarations, but none in support or against its passage.