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Road to the CHPS Core Criteria Update - Interview with Christopher Gerber

Recently we sat down with Christopher Gerber, who chairs the Integration & Steering Subcommittee for the CHPS National Technical Committee. He is a licensed architect specializing in the design of high performance learning environments. He has directed the design of many student-centered, sustainable schools around the world, and brings his unique systems approach to each project. The results span from preschools to graduate schools, and are recognized internationally as engaging, healthy, and effective learning environments. Christopher serves as a Commissioner for the California Architects Board, is also a certified Project Management Professional and a LEED Accredited Professional.

CHPS: Why is the CHPS Core Criteria important to schools and districts? The CHPS Core Criteria sets a benchmark or baseline for what a high performance school should be, anywhere in the country. Using the metaphor of a building, it is a common foundation for high performance schools. It gives states and regions the flexibility to build upon that foundation, to adopt context-specific strategies that support their unique priorities. This update of the Core Criteria contains lessons we have learned from implementing CHPS over the last ten years. With this update, our goal is to ensure that the CHPS Criteria remains rigorous, sophisticated and relevant, and continues to make an identifiable impact on the learning environment.

CHPS: You are leading the Integration and Steering Subcommittee, which is in charge of two important tasks: first, you are updating the “Integration” category of the Core Criteria and second, you are tasked with ensuring that the Core Criteria works as an integrated rating system. What were some of the main themes your committee explored in this update? Our main goal is to ensure that the Core Criteria works across all project types, climates, with urban schools and with rural schools. We want to make sure that all schools have the opportunity to become high performance schools. Our work is to find the perfect balance between rigorous and implementable. In addition, many of the original references in the Core Criteria were written with local references. We are making sure that we are addressing national best practices. In this case, we are working outwards – looking at important strategies that have been applied regionally and seeing how they can be applied nationally.

CHPS: You also worked on the Integration Category. What can the CHPS Community expect in that category as a result of this update? Our committee tried to figure out how to encourage districts and schools to use the integrated project delivery approach and practice systems thinking. How do we get owners at a table with designers, facilitators and the construction firm? They need to be there to guide the vision and a set of values that will drive the process. The credits will look and feel familiar, but they will be much easier to understand and implement. One of main areas of focus is to look at the climate credits – we want to reference standards that will make it easier to document greenhouse gas emissions.

CHPS: What new changes are particularly exciting to you? Making these strategies available to smaller or less experienced school districts was one of our main goals. Most don’t develop schools very often, so they follow old models of project delivery. They don’t have the opportunity to solicit input from the occupants during the design process. For the school systems that are using integrated design strategies, they see that projects are more efficient and more directly meet the users’ needs.

CHPS: What has been notable to you in the process of updating the CHPS Core Criteria? I have been continually impressed by our committee’s understanding of how design and construction decisions affect student achievement and facilities operating costs. This has been a running theme in our discussions – using data to drive the decisions, rather than anecdotal evidence. Part of the job of our committee is to create a process that ensures that project teams are able to make more informed decisions of each step of the project lifecycle by using the CHPS Criteria.

Speaking with the chair of the Integration & Steering Sub-committee for the CHPS National Technical Committee~order=2013-09-13
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