Public Sector


Burbank Unified School District, California

Burbank Unified School District
"I appreciate the support of the community of Burbank for Measure S. This is a great example of how we are using these funds to modernize our schools and enhance our sustainability."
Matt Hill, Superintendent
Burbank Unified School District

The Opportunity

Burbank Unified School District (BUSD) passed a school modernization bond in March 2013, but due to cost increases and revised classroom size reduction standards, the projected cost to complete all bond initiatives exceeded the $110 million bond. District leaders looked for creative ways to achieve the commitment without going back to the community for another bond. OpTerra presented a solution to implement energy upgrades under a design-build contract to address this critical issue. Funded through a low interest, paid-from-savings structure, OpTerra helped BUSD free up bond dollars to be reallocated to underfunded bond initiatives, such as additional classrooms and 21st century technology upgrades.

In addition to helping to achieve goals tied to the original bond campaign, OpTerra included advanced energy solutions such as solar PV installations and renovated water systems to hedge against ever increasing utility costs and mitigate resources in the face of California’s severe drought. Going above and beyond the parameters of the original bond work plans, OpTerra is actively working with BUSD to use the energy technology upgrades as a platform for STEM-based Living Labs, in which teachers and students will be able to access live technology data for real world learning opportunities in the classroom. Additionally, OpTerra is supporting STEM opportunities to enhance District curriculum, such as job shadowing, internships, and professional development for teachers.

The Partnership

In May 2015, the District and OpTerra entered into a comprehensive sustainability program partnership. One of the first achievements was the conversion of several of the sites’ irrigation systems from potable to recycled water at the peak of the statewide drought crisis.

Over the short summer recess of 2015, OpTerra was able to implement many of the upgrades just in time for teachers and students to return to school — also at a time of record high temperatures. Across many locations in the District, air conditioning units were installed in auditoriums, along with new mechanical air conditioning systems replacing older swamp coolers in multipurpose rooms, gymnasiums, cafeterias and kitchens. In July, a helicopter was successfully used to replace the new classroom HVAC units at the Luther Burbank Middle School, which required additional coordination as the school sits in the flight path of Bob Hope Airport.

The program is funded through a tax-exempt lease purchase (TELP), Prop 39 funds, and bond dollars. The first phase marks the beginning of a series of capital projects that will improve the District’s environmental and fiscal sustainability and provide financial relief to Measure S. OpTerra supports BUSD’s vision for a long-term sustainable future by guaranteeing the energy savings used to finance the infrastructure upgrades.

The Impact

The current program is helping BUSD reduce its water consumption in a dire period of California’s historic drought. By converting its irrigation systems to reclaimed water, BUSD has not only saved the region an estimated 26 million gallons in potable water each year, but also elevated consciousness within the community about the State- mandated water restrictions.

OpTerra and BUSD’s strong public-private partnership reflects the District’s commitment to financial and environmental stewardship and is expected to achieve $10.4 million in net savings. As a result of this successful collaboration, District leaders continue to work with OpTerra to explore additional improvements and energy efficiency measures at campuses throughout the District in an effort to further reduce energy costs and provide long-term savings that can be redirected to support and enhance student learning.

The Technical Scope

  • 742 kW of solar PV on parking lot and student shade structures and rooftops across eight sites upon program completion
  • Converted irrigation systems from potable to recycled water
  • New and upgraded AC systems and ventilation systems
  • Replaced HVAC systems, including new District-wide energy management system and duct cleaning
  • Interior and exterior LED lighting system upgrade with controls
  • PA system and life safety system upgrades
  • New lunch shelter, area asphalt and reconstruction of parking lots

Burbank Unified School District