Richardsville Elementary School achieved what many thought was impossible. It was the first Zero Energy school in the world and built with a 15-year financial payback! The strategy was simple; drastically reduce the energy consumption to minimize the PV array. The 72,300 square foot school is consuming only 18 kbtu/sf-year, and 348 kW of solar panels enable the school to generate 10% more energy than it consumes. It’s an example of what great things can happen when engineers, architects, building owners, and state agencies collaborate to achieve incredible project results.
Many sustainable design strategies were incorporated into Richardsville Elementary, such as an enhanced geothermal HVAC system, heat pump units with dual compressors, a demand-controlled outside air system utilizing CO2 measurement, daylighting for all classrooms and an energy-efficient lighting system at 0.7 w/square foot. This project reached past the MEP systems to reduce energy consumption. The architect chose a two-story rectangular design with ICF (insulated concrete forms) wall construction to improve the performance of the thermal envelope and minimize infiltration. Several kitchen changes took place, but the most significant change was the type II exhaust hoods to reduce the exhaust ventilation requirements. Richardsville was also Kentucky’s first wireless school, utilizing all laptop computers for lower energy usage.