The Department of Energy (DOE) announced the release of Energy Design Guidelines for High Performance Schools: Hot and Dry Climates, the first volume in a series of guidelines to help the nation’s K-12 schools save millions of dollars on their annual energy costs, which now exceed $6 billion a year.

“New construction practices and technologies, and energy efficient renovations can bring that $6 billion expense down by 25 percent,” Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said. “Schools could make good use of the savings for books, more teachers, computers, and other worthy programs.”

Six more sets of guidelines geared to specific U.S. climate zones will be released by summer 2002. The information is pertinent to architects, builders, contractors, and school officials nationwide.

The document includes case studies that illustrate energy efficient practices already in place at various schools across the country. One example is the Roy Lee Walker Elementary School in McKinney, TX, which uses daylighting, passive solar heating, and a rainwater catchment system — an anti-erosion measure — that incorporates a garden with indigenous plants as a teaching tool.

David Garman, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the DOE, stated, “Our goal is to help schools reduce operating costs and improve the learning environment while making the schools themselves a hands-on lesson about energy efficiency.”

In studies dating back to 1992, researchers have found that improved attendance among teachers and students is correlated with improvements in hvac systems.

DOE’s design guidelines grew out of meetings that its Rebuild America program convened during 2000 and 2001 to discuss best energy-saving practices with school administrators, architects, teachers, developers, and others. Rebuild America revitalizes communities through energy-efficient building retrofits by providing business and technical assistance to school districts, local governments, and community organizations through more than 400 voluntary partnerships in 50 states and three territories.

Partners that worked with DOE to develop these guidelines include the National Institute of Building Sciences, Texas State Energy Office, Ashley McGraw Architects, Oregon Office of Energy, Environmental Support Solutions, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Building Science Corporation, Energy Design & Consulting, Innovative Design, and Facility Improvement Corporation.

The guidelines include the following topics: site design; windows and daylighting; energy-efficient building shell; renewable energy systems; lighting and electrical systems; mechanical and ventilation systems; environmentally sensitive building products and systems; water conservation; recycling systems and waste management; and transportation.

The guidelines for schools in hot, dry climates are available at To obtain the guidelines on a free CD-ROM, call 800-363-3732.