Achieving the First ESCO-Funded Zero Energy Project



Achieving the First ESCO-Funded Zero Energy Project

BOWLING GREEN, KY (July 13, 2020) – Warren County Public Schools and CMTA are proud to announce Jennings Creek Elementary School is performing as a Zero Energy educational facility, and operating as the most energy-efficient school in Kentucky. To be formally considered a Zero Energy facility, a facility must produce as much or more energy than it consumes each year. 

Designed by CMTA Engineers and Sherman Carter Barnhart Architects, and built by Alliance Corporation in 2018, Jennings Creek Elementary has been performing at an impressive 15.0 EUI since February 2020 – an energy usage 69% below the median K-12 school. The elementary school’s EUI was calculated using the school's total gross energy (consumed in a one-year period) divided by the total gross square footage of the building. This EUI rate establishes the elementary school as the most energy-efficient school in the State of Kentucky. Following the example of WCPS' Richardsville Elementary - the first Zero Energy school in the country - Jennings Creek has become the third Zero Energy school operating in the state.

The construction of a new elementary school was just one element of a district-wide energy savings partnership between WCPS and CMTA. Initiated in 2018, the guaranteed energy savings contract included multiple renovations and system improvements in dozens of buildings across the district. Data collected throughout the project phases and the first year of operation show WCPS’ district-wide savings of 7,305 MWh of electricity and 42,762 therms of natural gas. These savings equal 7,083 metric tons of mitigated carbon dioxide – an equivalent of 1,165 vehicles removed from the roadways - and establish Warren County Public Schools as the most energy-efficient school district in Kentucky based on the Kentucky School Board Association’s District EUI rankings last released for the 2017 fiscal year.


In 2018, the Warren County Public Schools District initiated a district-wide guaranteed energy savings project with CMTA Energy Solutions, ensuring WCPS $842,753 in utility and operational savings per year. To continuously meet the district-wide energy goals, WCPS launched the guaranteed energy savings contract with CMTA to ultimately finance, replace, and upgrade the necessary systems through project savings. This also includes measuring and verifying project savings for the next 20 years.

CMTA directed the district-wide energy savings contract while designing and commissioning Jennings Creek Elementary. The new school was designed with the necessary infrastructure to support solar panel installations funded as part of the district energy savings project. Jennings Creek Elementary is the first Zero Energy school funded by a guaranteed energy savings contract.

When establishing Jennings Creek Elementary's zero energy performance goals, CMTA’s Guaranteed Energy Savings Project Manager Chad Riggs says it was vital to have stakeholders and owners - like Warren County Public Schools - who supported the project's innovative approach. "The key factor in making Jennings Creek Elementary School the most energy-efficient school in KY starts with the School Board and leadership of Warren County Public Schools," Riggs stated. "All K-12 school districts in Kentucky have a desire to conserve energy and reduce utility costs, but the projects approved by Warren County Public Schools have proved that they are the state leader in energy efficiency."

The first annual energy performance report for the district documented substantial savings. Warren County Public Schools saved $1,215,155 or 38% of total utility costs, resulting in $372,402 in excess savings beyond the guarantee - all of which was retained by the school district. These savings ultimately reduced WCPS' electric, gas and water consumption, as well as improving the learning environments for students and faculty. 


The CMTA team in collaboration with Warren County Public Schools identified opportunities for savings through various WCPS energy conservation measures, then developed a comprehensive project to address capital improvements.

Highlights of the Guaranteed Energy Savings Contract and Jennings Creek Elementary include:

  • Six HVAC renovations (totaling 654,000 SF)
  • HVAC equipment replacements at three WCPS facilities
  • 23,000 new LED fixture installations
  • 1,504 low flow plumbing fixture installations
  • Window replacements at three WCPS facilities
  • New roof installation for Warren Elementary School
  • 520 KW of solar panels installed across six WCPS schools – including Jennings Creek Elementary, equipped with the largest solar array installation
  • Automatic swimming pool cover at the Aquatic Center installed
  • Building automation controls installed at twenty WCPS schools

The six HVAC renovations received energy-efficient water source heat pumps with dedicated outdoor air systems. Five of the six schools in the WCPS district were converted to geothermal heating and cooling systems during a nine-week summer break. Construction costs for the guaranteed energy savings performance contract totaled $30,324,085.

"WCPS values a collaborative team of consultants and contractors that together build the best possible product for our employees and students," WCPS Chief Financial Officer Chris McIntyre stated.

The crowning project of the district-wide effort was the design and construction of the new Jennings Creek Elementary School. To achieve sustainability excellence, the project team incorporated the same high-performance building design principles CMTA has utilized to improve WCPS projects for the past 30 years. At $211 per square foot, the zero-energy design proves energy-efficient and sustainable designs can be cost-effective.


Throughout the construction phase of the new elementary school, CMTA Commissioning Authority Gary Hagan and his team oversaw the commissioning efforts and designed the virtual reality-based occupant engagement dashboard called "SPHERE." The interactive technology provides faculty and students with real information about the building's operation features and performance while integrating the data into a real-life curriculum and results.

As Mr. Hagan states, the data also ensures no detail goes unnoticed, and the building is operating optimally. "The advanced metering system and energy dashboard allowed CMTA to pinpoint operational issues such as improper heat pump compressor staging, improperly tuned lighting control drivers, and other occupied schedule issues." 

Although the energy dashboard was an asset to the project's development, SPHERE continues to be a real-life sustainability teaching tool in the classroom as well. The dashboard allows facilitators, teachers, students, and building owners to quickly and easily access the building's operational information, which can correlate with the academic curriculum. The custom-designed SPHERE dashboard for Warren County Public Schools is now live and can be viewed HERE


Founded in 1968 in Lexington, KY, CMTA, Inc. is a multi-specialty firm that engineers and commissions cost-effective, energy-efficient, high-performance building systems and provides guaranteed energy savings through performance contracting and energy audits. CMTA has extensive experience in the engineering and performance contracting for education facilities from Pre-K through higher education.

For over 30 years, CMTA has provided innovative, energy-efficient design services for Warren County Public Schools. Projects include:

  • Richardsville Elementary School – first Zero Energy school in the U.S.
  • Jennings Creek Elementary School – Kentucky’s second Zero Energy school
  • Bristow Elementary School – Zero Energy-ready school
  • Jody Richards Elementary School – Zero Energy-ready school
  • Plano Elementary School – Zero Energy-ready school
  • Alvaton Elementary School – Zero Energy-ready school & Kentucky’s first Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) School
  • Natcher Elementary School – Zero Energy-ready school
  • Warren Elementary School – Zero Energy-ready school
  • Drakes Creek Middle School – Zero Energy-ready school & first ENERGY STAR Certified Schools in KY
  • Henry Moss Middle School – Zero Energy-ready school & first ENERGY STAR Certified Schools in KY
  • Warren East Middle School – Zero Energy-ready school & first ENERGY STAR Certified Schools in KY

Read the Jennings Creek Elementary Case Study HERE

Read the Warren County Public Schools Performance Contract Case Study HERE