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Market Segment: K-12

Project Type: Design-Build

April 19, 2019

Stow, Ohio

Plug Smart Brings Innovative Cooling System to NE Ohio School District

Ohio-based Plug Smart, a full-service, design-build energy services company, partnered with the Stow-Munroe Falls City School District to retrofit six of its elementary schools with a unique, affordable cooling system.

During the summer and fall of 2018, Northeast Ohio experienced some of the hottest temperatures on record. Several local school districts struggled to keep schools properly cooled and were forced to shut their doors, due to antiquated buildings in need of HVAC systems repair or replacement.

The shutdowns were costly – both in terms of unforeseen expenses and students’ time away from the classroom. A study by the National Bureau of Academic Research shows that students’ ability to learn is adversely affected by hotter classroom temperatures and that a comfortable classroom environment is critical for students’ success.

The Stow-Munroe Falls City School District recognized that it had several elementary schools that were more than 50 years old with facilities not originally built for air conditioning. The district had been leasing a temporary cooling system for 6 weeks in the fall to temper the extreme heat in the classroom environment, but this didn’t address the extreme heat that can be experienced in the spring months as well. With no permanent air conditioning in the buildings, outside of a few office spaces, the district sought a centralized, non-invasive system that would stand the test of time and provide the ability to cool the buildings all year.

Since the school district had already partnered with Plug Smart on two energy management projects, it approached the energy services firm a third time – confident that its trusted partners would find an innovative solution to its aging facilities and bring them into the 21st century.

Plug Smart was able to design a cost-effective system to provide air conditioning to six of the district’s elementary schools. This new, permanent and innovative solution cost approximately 30-50 percent of a traditional central cooling system in a K-12 environment. Utilizing a lease-purchase financing structure, this new air conditioning system’s annual payment is less than the annual cost of the temporary cooling system previously used by the district, fitting within their existing budget.

The project featured $1.4M in HVAC improvements across approximately 260,000 square feet of schools, impacting over 9,000 students and faculty in the Stow-Munroe Falls City School District over the next 20 years. Plug Smart completed the project during the summer of 2018, in advance of students returning for the 2018-2019 school year. This resulted in Stow-Munroe Falls City School District being one of the few school districts that did not have to shut down any of its facilities during the heat wave.

"Partnering with Plug Smart has helped us to be on the cutting edge of creating a comfortable learning environment for students," says Tom Bratten, Stow School District Superintendent. "Now that we don't have to worry about cooling issues for the upcoming hot summer months, we can focus our attention and resources on what's most important - a superior education for the students our district serves." 

Plug Smart has completed numerous cooling system installations for other Ohio school districts facing similar challenges. The company plans to continue to bring creative cooling solutions to other school districts in the area, so that they too can create the optimal learning environment for their students ahead of the 2019-2020 school year.

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