K-12 schools’ electrical and power systems

Electrical and power systems are being upgraded at K-12 schools

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer March 15, 2023
Courtesy: Salas O'Brien

K-12 school insights

  • After COVID-19, many K-12 school buildings were upgraded to improve their indoor environmental quality, necessitating additional electrical controls.
  • Energy codes and standards drive lighting design in K-12 schools.

Misty DuPré, PE, Principal, Salas O’Brien, Vista, California – Maureen McDonald, LEED AP, Director, Energy Services, Southland Industries, Garden Grove, California – Steven Mrak, PE, Vice President, Peter Basso Associates Inc., Troy, Michigan – Steve Reigh, PE, HBDP, Engineering Leader, DLR Group, Washington, D.C.


What are some key differences in electrical, lighting and power systems you might incorporate in this kind of facility, compared to other projects?

Misty DuPré: Some special requirements for classrooms include CO2 monitoring for demand-controlled ventilation. Additionally, particularly in California, where we do a high amount of work with school districts, under the jurisdiction of the Division of the State Architect, fire alarm and fire suppression systems are required to be designed by engineering professionals and cannot be provided as deferred submittal for design-build approach like other project types may be.

In the Physical Sciences Building at Aliso Niguel High School Capistrano Unified School District, the design incorporated exposed structural elements to highlight the engineered systems within the building. By design, students are able to see how the cabling, ductwork and piping are running throughout the building, making the technology they are learning about come more to life. Some key elements to the design included acid waste piping from laboratories, fume hood exhaust and daylight harvesting. Courtesy: Salas O’Brien

How does your team work with the architect, owner’s rep and other project team members so the electrical/power systems are flexible and sustainable?

Misty DuPré: It is important at the beginning of the project that the design team understands projected future needs of the building/campus. Are there future plans for expansion that need to be accommodated for? We do a large amount of client work in California and state energy codes are strict so our typical code compliant designs are very energy efficient and dynamic to align with building needs. As daylighting changes throughout the day or as occupants move about the building, lighting is automatically controlled on or off accordingly.