Proposition 39 ZNE School Retrofit Pilot

Learn how California is transforming existing schools to zero net energy performance.

Communicating ZNE   Education & Training   Recognition   Case Studies

With California schools educating over 8.4 million students who spend 1,000 hours each year in a school building, innovative design solutions are needed to deliver more healthy and productive learning environments.  California is leading in the nation in driving K-12 schools and community colleges to zero net energy (ZNE) performance. These projects represent high performance buildings that combine energy efficiency and renewable resources to produce at least as much energy as they consume annually.

The Proposition 39 ZNE School Retrofit Pilot Program provides school districts with additional financial resources to retrofit some of California’s existing K-12 and community college buildings to ZNE. In addition to the on-the-ground pilots, the program supported the development of case studies, training webinars and workshops as well as the ZNE School Leadership awards and recognition program. Information and materials developed by New Buildings Institute as part of the Proposition 39 ZNE Pilot program are available here. This pilot is supported by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric, and Southern California Gas Company.

Key Messages for Communicating ZNE in Schools

Effective communication is critical to successfully engage your audience and ultimately achieve your goal of designing, constructing, and operating a zero net energy (ZNE) school. New Buildings Institute researches these ZNE buildings and six common themes have emerged that help successfully communicate the importance of this path to ZNE.  These themes, or key messages are effective tools for communicating with stakeholders the value of these buildings on student health, education and the impact on our environment.  Framing these messages with your stakeholders in mind is key to communicating with them on a level that they understand and that motivates them.

Review the Stakeholder Engagement and Messaging Guide.

Education & Training

Prop 39 ZNE Retrofit workshops and webinars feature the experiences of school officials and design teams working on these groundbreaking projects to help share the lessons learned and expand knowledge of the opportunities and challenges to ZNE school retrofit design and operations. The interactive program is designed to help administrators and building professionals and others learn about the state’s goals for ZNE and how to apply the necessary design strategies and technology applications to whole-building retrofit projects.  For previous workshop, webinar and training materials, please see below:

2018 Proposition 39 Trainings Page

2017 Proposition 39 Workshops Page



Tools for Getting to Zero Energy in School New Construction  |  3/21/2019
Zero energy schools are indeed possible and don’t have to come with a premium price tag! Watch this one-hour webinar focusing on new design guidance that helps school projects cost effectively achieve advanced levels of energy savings. NREL’s Paul Torcellini takes us through the Advanced Energy Design Guide (AEDG) for Zero Energy K-12 School Buildings, which establishes a set of energy performance goals for achieving zero energy and outlines strategies for hitting energy targets. The guide builds upon the popular 50% AEDG series with new and updated recommendations. Reilly Loveland of NBI presents the ZE Schools Resource Hub, including California’s Proposition 39 ZNE Pilot resources and other guides for getting to zero energy schools.

Guest Presenter:
Paul Torcellini, Principal Engineer, NREL

Perspectives on the Cost of ZNE Retrofits  |  11/29/18

The path to Zero Net Energy (ZNE) school retrofits can be a daunting one. Some issues may seem overwhelming. Teams looking to implement ZNE often ask questions like where do I start? How do you pay for it? Learn from two “early adopter” school districts as they highlight their respective approaches to ZNE and describe the cost analysis that support their decisions.

Guest Presenters:

  • Nik Kaestner from San Francisco Unified School District
  • Christos Chrysiliou from Los Angeles Unified School District

Mission Possible! Southern California Prop 39 ZNE School Retrofit Pilot Case Studies  |  9/27/18

This one-hour webinar highlights two ZNE school retrofit projects – one at a district scale and another at a community college. Featured projects include Garden Grove School District and San Bernardino Community College. Viewers will advance their knowledge of the stakeholder engagement, building assessment, design process, and technology applications used in these Prop 39 ZNE Schools Pilot Program demonstration projects.

Guest Presenters:

  • Seth Jacobson and Celia Hoag from the Garden Grove School District projects
  • Hussain Agah and Ferrah Farzaneh from San Bernardino Community College

Dreaming the Future: How Zero Net Energy Design Can Transform the School Environment  |  6/13/18

Education is rapidly emerging as a leading sector among zero net energy (ZNE), high performance buildings. ZNE schools are highly efficient buildings that can meet all their energy needs with on-site renewable resources. Studies show that classrooms with sustainable attributes contribute to improved knowledge gain by providing a more comfortable, healthier environment for students and teachers. ZNE schools are becoming a living laboratory for students to better understand the nexus of technology, innovation, and the environment, bringing home the impact that our built environment can have on natural spaces. This one-hour webinar will focus on the benefits of ZNE, high performance schools so that practitioners understand the value and benefits they offer to students, teachers and communities.

Guest Presenters:

  • Theresa Pistochini, Engineering Manager, Western Cooling Efficiency Center Energy and Efficiency Institute, UC Davis
  • Rengie Chan, Research Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Prop 39 ZNE School Retrofit Pilot Case Studies  |  5/31/18

This one-hour webinar will highlight two projects that demonstrate the proof-of concept in ZNE school retrofits: Newcastle Elementary School and Los Osos Middle School. Attendees will advance their knowledge of the stakeholder engagement, building assessment, design process, and technology applications used in two Prop 39 ZNE Schools Pilot Program demonstration projects.

Guest Presenters:

  • Alexis Karolides, Sustainability Practice Leader, Point Energy Innovations
  • Dave Houghton, Owner, Avila Partners


From Dream to Reality: Getting to Zero in Schools
This two-hour workshop focused on the process of getting to zero in two California school districts. The unique perspectives of the Energy Manager, Director of Sustainability and Director of Buildings and Grounds were provided in their discussions. The workshop additionally highlighted common district approaches and goals, the importance of teamwork in the integrated design process, and operational considerations that are crucial for ongoing zero net energy performance in schools.

Held at the Sustainable Facilities Forum, Sacramento, CA | 5/16/19

Inefficiency is Old School: A Technical Deep Dive Into ZNE School Retrofits

The four-hour workshop highlighted technical design features, technology packages and construction practices from the ongoing journey of the Proposition 39 ZNE pilot schools. The training also addressed operational considerations and offer ideas that connect students with the building through educational components that can be crucial for successful performance and cost avoidance.

Held at the Green California Schools & Community Colleges Summit and Expo, Pasadena, CA | 10/30/18

Delivering The Winning Pitch: Making the Business Case for ZNE Schools

This three-hour session focused on the business of creating ZNE in California’s K-12 schools and community college campuses by highlighting the experiences of districts participating in the Proposition 39 ZNE Schools Pilot program.  This session provided an opportunity for school district staff to hone their key messaging skills to effectively “sell” deep energy efficiency and ZE in their district.

Held at the East Bay AIA Offices, Oakland, CA | 6/26/18

The Business of ZNE School Retrofits and Community Impact

This three-hour session focused on the process and implementation of schools in the Proposition 39 ZNE Schools Pilot program including planning, engaging stakeholders, assessment of costs and savings and options to secure financing. Attendees were given the tools and strategies to help build consensus among community members and engage all the necessary audiences.

Held at the Green California Schools & Community Colleges Summit and Expo, Pasadena, CA | 11/27/17

A Technical Deep Dive into ZNE School Retrofits

The four-hour interactive workshop highlighted the technical design features, construction practices and operational considerations from the ongoing multi-year journey of the Proposition 39 ZNE pilot schools program. These schools are establishing “proof of concept” that ZNE retrofits of schools are in fact feasible across California and were presented as case studies and models for replication in your own design.

Held at the Environmental Innovation Center, San Jose, CA | 5/25/17

ZNE Technical Training for Schools & Building Industry Professionals

This six-hour technical session is targeted to architects, engineers, operations managers, and constructions managers. The interactive program built on the knowledge of the technology applications and strategies for building retrofits, including tools for financing, communicating with clients, as well as planning, design, and operations. Held at the following locations:

  • Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit, Pasadena, CA | 11/1/16
  • East Bay AIA, Oakland, CA | 6/1/16
  • Energy Innovation Center, San Diego, CA | 5/9/16
  • Pacific Energy Center, San Francisco, CA | 4/18/16
  • Energy Resource Center, Downey, CA | 2/26/16
  • Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit, Pasadena, CA | 10/28/15

Zero Net Energy and the School Community for Administrators and Stakeholders: Integrating ZNE in your School Plans & Policies

This Proposition 39 ZNE Schools pilot institutional trainings featured case studies of schools with zero net energy design goals. Attendees engaged in this interactive workshop with the tools and exercises to help plan and advocate for ZNE buildings internally, and resources for creative financing, planning, and integrating curriculum into new school buildings and retrofits. Held at the following location:

  • Energy Innovation Center, San Diego, CA | 5/10/16
  • Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit, Pasadena  | 4/20/16
  • San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City, CA | 3/14/16
  • West Berkeley Public Library, Berkeley, CA | 11/10/15


To honor early innovation and leadership in this market, the Prop 39 ZNE Pilot program administers a ZNE awards and recognition program for leadership in schools. The awards showcase the people, teams, buildings, and districts that are driving this new standard for school environments. These awards are hosted each year at the Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit and Expo.  For previous winners and more information about the awards please see below:

Leadership Awards are presented during the annual Green California Schools Summit on November 28, 2016 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by David McNew)

Individuals & Teams: Honoring the champions, individuals who inspire others on the path to ZNE and project teams that work effectively together to achieve ZNE goals.

Districts: Recognizing large and small districts that have created policies, programs, or plans that results in larger scale advancement of zero energy buildings.

Outstanding Buildings: Spotlighting ZNE verified, ZNE emerging and ultra-low projects at K-12 schools and community college campuses.

2018 California ZNE School Leadership Awards

2017 California ZNE School Leadership Awards

2016 California ZNE School Leadership Awards

Learn more about the California ZNE School Leadership Awards

Proposition 39 ZNE School Case Studies

Case studies disseminate information about best practices in California’s ZNE schools. These case studies offer critical insight into the costs, design and construction approaches, operational needs and lessons learned to successfully achieve ZNE in schools through new construction and whole building retrofits.

View case studies

Proposition 39, the California Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2012 (Prop 39) funds have been used to improve energy efficiency and increase the use of clean energy in public schools and community colleges. In the separate Prop 39 ZNE Schools Retrofit Pilot Program, funded by the California Investor-Owned Utilities, schools are provided assistance in retrofitting existing facilities to ZNE by leveraging Prop 39 funding.