Indiana Chapter - American Planning Association

Here’s Comes the Sun…Planning and Preparing for Renewables

Posted on February 25th, by Jill Ewing in APA Indiana, Central Region Event, Environmental Planning. No Comments

By Mark McCormack, Southern Region Representative

This article has been prepared in an effort to share some of the information presented and discussed at the October 2014 Southern Region APA-IN (CM) event. Hopefully, it will bring some sunshine and warmth into our winter / polar vortex mindset(s).

Getting to Net-Zero

Energy conservation and on-site renewable energy generation are becoming more and more common in Indiana, and to our region. The constant emergence and evolution of these technologies and related techniques is challenging for planners and other public officials to keep up with—in terms of education, new regulations, best management practices, etc. While these types of improvements may present challenges, they also offer many new opportunities to community residents and businesses (in terms of land use, space demands, cost savings, and so on). This article highlights an ‘outside-of-the-box’ approach to institutional planning and management, and provides an example of how ‘net-zero’ buildings / facilities can be achieved.

Since Rob Haney took his current position as Director of Support Services for the Kenton County (KY) School District, he has been on a mission to get the school district to approach net-zero with its building facilities. The goal to get to net-zero has involved many strategies and has been an ongoing process that has involved a lot of learning—from both direct trials and testing and from studying the work and efforts of others. The school district has retrofitted and updated aging facilities with newer technologies as well as design new facilities with energy optimization and performance (in mind from the outset). Some of the elements that the school district has utilized to reach its net-zero goal include:

  • Daylight harvesting
  • Geothermal HVAC
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Photovoltaic (solar) systems
  • Vital sign systems (for buildings to measure and make determinations regarding energy consumption)
  • Creating smaller, more compact building footprints
  • Allowing fewer building openings (windows, doors, etc.)—and for more strategic placement of openings
  • Maximizing the use of energy-efficient devices and appliances
  • Forming a student management team in every school to monitor individual facility energy performance(s)
  • Creating classes for teenage students in sustainable energy technology and engineering, energy and the environment, and construction 101—using the school district’s facilities as part of the learning and engagement process

The school district has also focused on keeping construction costs as low as possible—so that the above-referenced improvements can be funded. School officials have made some tough decisions to reduce facility spaces and to sacrifice improvements that may have held higher sentimental value to some members of community; however, the results / impacts to the school system and its operations are difficult to debate. The Turkey Foot Middle School is almost twice as large as the old school building (which was demolished on the same site 3-4 years ago). Despite the much bigger building, the annual energy cost is one-third of the costs associated with the previous school ($33,000 vs. $95,000). The school district’s conscientious approach to achieving ‘net-zero’ has significantly reduced its building operations and maintenance costs moving forward—allowing it much more flexibility for long-range planning efforts associated with future capital improvements and providing a very competitive educational environment, in terms of attracting more people and investment to the school district.

In 2013, as a result of the school district’s efforts in 2012 (and prior), the Kenton County School District was named an ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year. The 14,000-student school district with 1.7 million square feet of educational facilities was recognized for ‘its significant commitment to building and operating energy-efficient schools and for using ENERGY STAR tools and resources as a central component of its energy program.’ **To find out more information about the Kenton County School District, its unique energy management efforts (including those involving regular student and faculty participation), and ENERGY STAR and its award and recognition programs, please refer to the links below.

Kenton County (KY) School District Energy Center:
ENERGY STAR Profiles in Leadership, 2013
Kenton County (KY) School District (main website):
ENERGY STAR (main website):


For additional information or materials related to the ‘Here Comes the Sun’ event, please email me by clicking here

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