Project Profile: Richardsville Elementary School



Firm name: CMTA Inc. 

Project building name and location: Richardsville Elementary School, Bowling Green, Ky.

Type of building and type of project: Elementary School, New Construction

Project completion date and project duration: September 2010


Engineering challenges and solutions:

Richardsville Elementary is the first Net Zero Energy Public School in the United States. The primary design challenge was to design a school that would be so energy efficient the on-site energy source (solar photovoltaics) would be affordable (within a public school’s budget). With nine months of data, the school is operating at 17 kBtu/sf year: 75% below ASHRAE’s average for Kentucky’s climate zone. A 348 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system provides the site-produced energy for the school.


Solutions to the above challenges.

There are three keys to an energy efficient building: Building envelope, MEP systems and building operations. Richardsville Elementary is constructed from insulated concrete form walls. It is a two-story design that minimizes the exterior wall/per floor square foot. The HVAC system is geothermal heat pumps with a dedicated outside air system. The OA unit utilizes control based on CO2 and occupancy. All classrooms are lit with an active daylighting control system. The artificial lighting systems design are extremely efficient, 0.68 w/sf. Kitchen energy usage was address on this project. The kitchen staff, architects and engineers spent three days at Duke Energy’s test kitchen learning how to prepare their existing menus with energy efficient appliances and new cooking techniques.


This project is the first fully wireless IT system in Kentucky. Laptop carts allow any classroom to be a computer room. Eliminating the computer classroom reduced building square foot. Another issue was the financial model to support the purchase of the solar PV system. The design team and the school district worked together to obtain a $1.3 million grant through the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In addition, an energy buy-back agreement was negotiated with the local energy provider, Tennessee Valley Authority, which pays the school a premium for every kilowatt returned to the grid. The school district is dedicated to operating buildings efficiently. In 2009, the District received the Andromeda Award from the Washington, DC, based Alliance to Save Energy.


Students, teachers and staff at Richardsville are proud of their new school and have energy teams that help the teachers and the staff monitor energy consumption. The MEP systems are tired to an energy dashboard that is integrated into the curriculum.


Click Here to View More Project Profiles