Fort Wright, Kentucky
Using a robust energy management solution with thorough reporting capabilities and ENERGY STAR integration has allowed them to analyze their usage to make more data-driven decisions and validate their projects.
Energy is the second-highest line item in the budget of most educational institutions. It’s a fact Chris Baker and Rob Haney know all too well as Energy Systems Coordinator and Chief Operating Officer for Kenton County School District, the fifth-largest district in Kentucky.
Kenton County’s energy management program has proven to be an inspiring success story, paving the way for other districts and showing industry peers what’s possible when you get the right plans, tools and people in place. In fact, they’ve won the EPA’s Energy Star Partner of the Year Award seven times, most recently in 2020.
Why are they considered so successful? Here are just a few reasons that highlight their work from 2005, up to 2020:
Let's go back to 2005.
At that point, they had invested in some sophisticated building automation tools, but had no real focus on energy or any point person on the job. What they did have was an opportunity.
“Our building inventory was in pretty bad shape, and we had substantial dollars afforded to us through a growth nickel tax rate that we were allowed to levy, which gave us the funding to renovate or replace a lot of aging buildings,” Rob says. “It was an opportunity for us to design differently, and we had an architect on staff who was really passionate around energy conservation. We approached the design and construction of our buildings differently because of that, and it was at that time we saw a need to create an energy systems job description and find someone who could champion this work."
That’s when Chris joined the district as Energy Systems Coordinator, working to create an energy program that would be sustainable. At first, they were relying on spreadsheets that required manual data entry, but it soon became clear their project had outgrown that approach.
The desire for more visibility into their efforts is what led them to seek out an energy management solution in Energy Manager™. “After seeing the power of the software, we were able to track better and monitor. We’ve become more informed users. And now we have tools in the hands of those in the school buildings.”
Chris says Energy Manager is their one-stop shop for all things energy management.
"Energy Manager gives you a very simple and easy-to-use tool to combine all your energy management efforts. You can track energy costs and usage. You can follow your IDR (interval data recording). You can create checklists. You can use it to track the progress on different types of energy management projects – and it’s all located in one software,” she says.
For Kenton County School District, they have a three-pronged approach to energy management, including construction and renovation, education, and energy conservation at the building level.
“Energy Manager helps us in all three of those,” Chris says. “There is a correlation to HVAC, etc. It helps in our education programs because our students also have access to the IDR and reporting functions, and they use that as part of their treasure hunts. It’s the core of our energy conservation and energy management.”
They’ve even created a behavior modification program, consisting of conservation checklists and best practices that everyone can participate in.
“E=WISE is our student energy program. Every elementary and middle school has a team,” Chris says. “They do building assessments, and the point is to see how much their building used or spent. These are all numbers they get out of the software.”
In 2019, Kenton County hosted a pirate-themed Student Energy Workshop and an accompanying ENERGY STAR Treasure Hunt.
It’s clear that in Kenton County, it’s the people who really take charge and make these programs come to life. Thankfully, they’ve got energy management software that gives them the data to prove it’s all making a measurable difference.
“The software has made annual reporting so much easier, to where a report that used to take me hours to do is now a matter of 15 to 20 minutes. It’s a tool I couldn’t imagine being without,” says Chris.
It’s a tool I couldn’t imagine being without.
It also helped them track shutdowns and air quality during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, trust us, even in the midst of the shutdowns, Kenton County was busy.
“Without students and teachers in the school buildings, we were able to focus on tasks that are difficult to perform with occupied buildings. These tasks included: replacing lamps in all UV disinfection units in mechanical equipment, increasing frequency of filter changes in all mechanical equipment, performing maintenance on all exhaust fans, replacing two rooftop units with high efficiency rooftops, replacing six boilers with high efficiency condensing boilers, and replacing two domestic water heaters with high efficiency water heaters,” Chris mentions.
Next, it will help them with the major renovations in seven or eight of their buildings. “Over the next two years, our goal is to increase our energy efficiency through our renovation projects that we have going on,” Chris says.
So far, Energy Manager has helped them get to a point where they can incorporate energy-efficient features in renovations and not raise the cost of a construction – which is a huge win.
“Energy Manager ensures the sustainability of our program. Without someone being able to monitor what’s going on, you can’t sustain the energy savings that you’re seeing at the time. Energy Manager is a core piece of that and being able to keep the program sustainable throughout changes in personnel,” Chris says.