Camas School District Policy Empowers Schools to Achieve Continuous Savings

In an effort to reduce resource consumption, address rising energy bills, and become a model for environmental stewardship, Camas School District in the State of Washington, wanted to set reduction targets for natural resources at all area schools. However, the district lacked a centralized policy that valued sustainability, prioritized reduction goals, and established the framework necessary to implement and measure improvements by school staff.  To achieve these goals, the District Operations Department launched an environmental education campaign to leverage community support and establish a system for tracking and managing natural resource consumption. The Resource Conservation Management Policy identifies key staff, delineates operations and maintenance protocols, and creates measurement and verification procedures to meet aggressive targets to reduce consumption of each of the following resources by 20% by 2020 against a 2009 baseline: electricity, natural gas, indoor and outdoor water, and waste.

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  • Policies

    Before a sustainability or energy policy was in place, Camas School District was approached by an energy service company looking to contract with the district to conduct system retrofits and improve building operations to achieve significant energy and cost savings. While the district was attracted to the proposed program and savings potential, officials became concerned with the requirement to outsource building controls to an outside organization, and realized the importance of having an internal policy that would enable school officials’ to take ownership over district natural resource consumption.

    The newly-appointed Director of Operations met with key facilities staff and consulted best practices in energy management for school districts, as promoted through the EPA’s ENERGY STAR® program, to draft a district-wide sustainability policy and establish operations protocols for energy, water, and waste systems.

    District-wide policies included:

    • Benchmarking of all buildings to establish a baseline for utility consumption, including energy, indoor and outdoor water, and waste on a monthly basis with a proprietary web-based platform to track, manage and assess energy consumption and projects online
    • Developing standardized heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) settings and maintenance practices for all district facilities
    • Establishing protocols for indoor and outdoor lighting operations, as well as daylighting applications
    • Evaluating facility plug loads and device or equipment ratings
    • The District Energy Manager shares quarterly energy reports with the principal, maintenance and custodial staff, and green teams at each school; Reports are presented to the school board on a bi-annual basis to share project details and highlight successes towards meeting sustainability and energy reduction targets.
    • The District Green Team meets quarterly to share information on grants as well as sustainability and energy project highlights


  • Process

    The Operations Department first focused on informing community officials of new energy reduction targets and communicating how the district planned to implement these goals in the future. The Director of Operations and District Energy Manager presented at a school board meeting to emphasize the importance of establishing a baseline for consumption, setting reduction targets, and becoming a role model for sustainability. Through these efforts, the Director of Operations and District Energy Manager sought to support sustainability through the creation of a board policy that succeeds by encouraging the active participation of every person in the district. 

    Once administration support was achieved, the Operations Department conducted facility audits of all schools and district buildings and identified a lack of standardized protocols for system HVAC set points, setback schedules for indoor and outdoor lighting, plug load settings, and tracking and management of resource consumption. The district selected a proprietary tracking tool to be used to monitor consumption at all 10 district schools and set reduction targets of 20% by 2020 using a 2009 baseline for electricity, natural gas, indoor and outdoor water, and waste.

    With a completed audit and a set of best practices for operations and maintenance in hand, the program was kicked off at the 10 area schools with the development of green teams, encouraged by the Operations Department and supported by the principals. This step enabled the administration of each school to take ownership over the data tracking portion of the policy, as well as train onsite staff and communicate program specifics to faculty and students. The district is also collaborating with the local Educational Service District 112 on a pilot project to develop a science classroom toolkit to bring sustainability into the classroom and integrate school efforts into student learning.

    Key staff and associated roles include:

    • Director of Operations: provide support for each building’s energy conservation efforts by monitoring and enforcing energy and resource conservation management measures under adopted policies and procedures
    • District Energy Manager: compile energy consumption data for district administration, building conservation groups and school board; support the Director of Operations by tracking energy use, alerts, trend data, and maintaining the resource conservation management website
    • Principal/Administrator: responsible for the ultimate energy, water and waste usage of her/his building working in coordination with building maintenance staff and district facilities personnel
    • Teachers: responsible for implementing the guidelines during the time that she/he is present in the classroom
    • Building Maintenance Personnel: responsible for the efficient operation of all mechanical systems and run times of the HVAC, hot water, and lighting equipment
    • Custodians: report to building maintenance any water leaks, electrical, mechanical problems, and “out-of-the-ordinary” changes in heating and cooling; provide staff and students with assistance for recycling; use district approved “green” cleaning products that will reduce waste, promote a healthier workplace and environment for learning
    • Students and Staff: responsible for recycling and reduction of all classroom, cafeteria, kitchen and office solid wastes; participate in awareness and training components to enlist the support of all district staff and students in reducing unnecessary consumption of electricity, natural gas, water and consumable materials



  • Financing

    With the district’s policy in place, officials realized the importance of leveraging all available funding opportunities to support the energy efficiency initiatives. These funding sources included incentives for electric and natural gas projects with Bonneville Power Administration, Clark County Environmental Services, Clark Public Utility, Energy Trust of Oregon, Washington State Department of Commerce Energy Efficiency and Solar Grants program, Washington State Department of Enterprise Services, and Washington State Office of Superintendent and Public Instruction.

    Once the benchmarking effort was complete, the Operations Department was able to identify “low-hanging fruit” that provided a large savings and relatively low payback period, including:

    • Retrocommissioning
    • Direct digital controls (DDC)
    • Variable frequency drives (VFD) added to large air handling unites serving auditoriums, common spaces, gymnasiums
    • New high efficiency interior LED lights
    • Parking lot lighting upgrades to LED lights and fixtures using existing poles

    These low and no cost measures enabled the district to begin to save money and secure funds for additional larger projects with higher upfront costs and longer payback periods.

    The district looked to its local utilities, Clark Public Utility and the Bonneville Power Administration, to incentivize project selection and implementation. Both utilities offer rebates for a variety of commercial building energy conservation efforts including upgrades to lighting and HVAC systems amongst others.

    Community opportunities were also explored, including the Clark County Environmental Services Department in Clark County, Washington and the Energy Trust of Oregon. Clark County provides support and resources for student-led green teams and partners with Washington Green Schools to offer composting and recycling grants to reduce cafeteria and overall school waste.  Schools participate by performing waste audits and conducting student awareness campaigns to educate students and monitor program success. The Energy Trust of Oregon is a non-profit organization that services both Oregon and Washington communities by providing energy grants and technical assistance.

    The district also leveraged resources provided by state offices such as the Washington State Department of Commerce, Washington State Department of Enterprise Services and Washington State Office of Superintendent and Public Instruction.  The Department of Commerce operates the Energy Efficiency and Solar Grants Program which received a $25 million appropriation in the 2015-2017 state capital budget to fund energy and solar projects.  The Washington State Department of Enterprise Services manages the Energy Savings and Performance Contracting Program which provides assistance with project and contract management to state organizations while the Washington State Office of Superintendent and Public Instruction offers the Energy Grants Program for energy operational cost savings improvements in K–12 school facilities.


  • Measuring Success

    The district evaluates program success based on annual progress towards the goal of improving electricity, natural gas, indoor and outdoor water, and waste 20% by 2020 based on a 2009 baseline.

    Leveraging a proprietary online energy management tracking tool, consumption for each resource is calculated every month by school to allow for the measurement and verification of meter readings. Energy reports are compiled by the District Energy Manager and shared quarterly with the principal, maintenance and custodial staff and green teams at each school, and presented to the school board on a bi-annual basis.

    The district selected their energy tracking tool for its one-stop interface which includes: energy accounting, budget forecasting, carbon emissions, and advanced reporting.  The program automatically uploads data into the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager Tool, enabling the district to compare Camas’ school facilities to other similar K-12 schools across the country and obtain certification for buildings earning a score of 75 or higher on a 1-100 scale of energy performance. Camas has achieved ENERGY STAR building certifications at all 10 of the district’s schools, which include six elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools, serving a population of over 6,800 students.



  • Outcomes

    Camas School District designed and enacted the Resource Conservation Management Policy, which united school officials and the greater community to establish a district-wide commitment to sustainability. With support achieved at every level of the administration, faculty, staff, and broader community, the district was able to implement a successful conservation policy across ten schools. As a result, the district has exceeded its initial goal of achieving a 20% energy reduction by 2020. To date through 2015, Camas has already achieved an energy reduction of 28% against a 2014 baseline, in addition to other natural resource savings.

    The district has also succeeded in its goal to serve as a role model for school districts across the country for environmental sustainability. In 2014, Liberty Middle School was honored with the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Award, and Camas was the first K-12 school district in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge to meet and surpass its portfolio wide energy reduction commitment of 20% by 2020 across its portfolio of 952,000 square feet based on a 2009 baseline in 2015.

    In addition, Camas continues to impact the sustainable outlook of students across the district. Seven of 10 schools earned Washington Green Schools’ certification for forming student-lead green teams to oversee additional conservation measures and submitting report cards to the non-profit to report progress and promote efforts. 

Washington state's Camas School District wanted to set reduction targets for natural resources but lacked a formal policy to guide schools toward its goals. A Resource Management Policy was developed to empower schools to achieve energy, water, and waste goals. This led to a collective energy reduction of 28% over a six-year span.


K-12 School District, Suburban School District

Student Population: 6,800


Establish a long-term strategy to reduce district electricity, natural gas, indoor and outdoor water, and waste 20% by 2020


Lack of formal district policy to support sustainability and conservation measures at 10 area schools


Developed and deployed the Energy Resource Management Program, which leverages the participation of all district members to achieve district energy, water, and waste goals


The district achieved a collective energy reduction of 28% in 2015 from a 2009 baseline