Is This School the Greenest Building in Kentucky?

The schools in Kenton County, Kentucky have started going green. In 2003, the Kenton School District Sustainability Program launched a major overall of the school buildings, with the goal of drastically reducing energy use and cost. So far, it has been incredibly effective. Since 2005, the total cost avoidance in the district (which includes water, gas, and electricity) is a whopping $6.8 million. The program is all-encompassing, constantly self-analyzing and improving, and even involves the teachers and students.

The program began with Caywood Elementary and Twenhofel Middle School, where initial efforts were a bit rocky. With so many different, and at the time “cutting edge” technologies working together, the buildings had their share of problems. They have since worked out the kinks, but the process became somewhat of a lab experiment for the county’s crowning achievement, Turkey Foot Elementary, where the lessons learned were applied to great effect. Not only was the cost per square foot for building Turkey Foot below the regional average, but since 2005 they have sold back over $49,000 worth of electricity back to Duke Energy. They are also able to sell energy credits to Ohio, which will help the schools become cost-neutral.

Energy conservation is where Kenton County schools excel. This is achieved through a variety of structural and engineering feats. Special windows with exterior sun visors allow for “daylighting”, which permits an abundance of natural light to enter the classrooms. In fact, in Caywood Elementary this was too successful, and the ultra-bright classrooms made it difficult to make presentations, so in Turkey Foot the design was scaled back to save materials and money. The schools are also fitted with a geothermal HVAC system, and they harvest rainwater.

All of the Kenton County schools use the Energy Star Portfolio Manager, which is a free system. Maintenance of the facility is very important. Even if someone designs a perfectly energy-efficient building, occupancy can change everything. Teachers will bring in personal refrigerators, lights will be left on, etc. To monitor their schools, Kenton County received interval data from Duke Energy, which provides detailed information about the energy output of individual schools. Once the data is adjust for weather-normalization, schools can pinpoint days and times of increased output and analyze the systems for issues, or come up with a plan for improvement. For instance, if the data shows a spike in energy use every night at midnight, a maintenance tech can be dispatched to the school at that time to see if a system is malfunctioning. Using this data, individual schools can immediately see how much energy (and money) they’re saving.

That is just one example of how the teachers and students are involved with the program. Energy education programs provide information for the students, and also help secure grant funding. The design and construction team on each school are required to engage the students throughout construction, to the point that students give tours of the facilities and are able to answer questions and be involved hands-on with the process of building their school. Turkey Foot offers a class called Energy and the Environment, in which students produce unique research projects relevant to the school. For instance, one project researched how often the solar panels on the school should be cleaned. Each school’s solar monitoring is online and available to all the students.



Additionally, Kenton County schools take full advantage of any incentives or rebates offered by Duke Energy. For Kenton County, recycling is the “final frontier”, mainly because the schools are spread out, and it’s more difficult to provide recoiling to scattered sites than a more densely populated area. However, their concern has spread to the schools kitchens, which do not include any fryers or processed foods, and meals are prepared from a menu.

Though no studies have been done comparing student achievement or satisfaction before and after they were moved to their new facilities, it’s a safe guess that both of these areas have improved. Though many independent (non-school) developers have toured the schools, there is no way of tracking whether or not they are utilizing this process in their own developments. However, based on the success in Kenton County, it seems they would appear to be a smart move.

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For more information on Kenton County Schools, visit these websites!