BEYOND THE SAVING: Nexus Solutions collaborates with Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) to create a new learning environment for students

The average student spends 11,700 hours of their life, in a school building, from kindergarten through twelfth grade. (Hull & Newport, 2011) Studies have shown that inadequacies in school facilities and environments can hinder learning and achievement. This was weighing heavy on the minds of the Kenosha United School District’s leadership. The District’s buildings were built in the 1960’s and had limited updates or renovations during their 50 years of operation. Students were learning in outdated and aging buildings, which had a backlog of deferred maintenance. It was time for a change.

 Over the past decade the School District explored and completed various facility projects, utilizing capital budgets and referendums, yet there was still more work that needed to be done. Fortunately, the Kenosha Unified Team was able to utilize a performance contract for the additional updates that were needed. After a detailed review and analysis of the energy performance contract process in 2017, the School District awarded several performance contracts to tackle the necessary improvements to their schools. Nexus Solutions, a comprehensive facility solutions company, was awarded Tremper High School. What follows is a detailed look at how an Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) was able to transform the learning environment for Tremper High School.

The Audit

Nexus Solutions was awarded the project in 2017. During that time they had done the necessary homework to lay the foundation, for a successful project, with the Kenosha Unified School District. Through an extensive audit process, the Nexus development and engineering teams walked the halls of Tremper High School to learn the operations of the building. They discovered building deficiencies such as aging plumbing fixtures, cooling and heating, poor performing lighting and deferred maintenance needs (i.e. casework, flooring, tiling, and ceilings). During the audit phase they also focused on identifying and correcting the educational inadequacies.

Russ Schumacher, Co-Founder of Nexus Solutions, stated in a recent interview, “the 1965 building design was not conducive to today’s teaching and learning methods.” Through a collaborative development process, the KUSD administration was able to share how they’d like to deliver education in the future. With open dialogue and collaboration, Nexus Solutions created an Energy Savings Performance Contract that addressed KUSD’s goals.

 Inside the Contract

The Energy Performance Contract consisted of:

• Building Envelope: $3.9 Million

• Systems Infrastructure (mechanical & electrical systems): $18.6 million

 • Deferred Maintenance: $2.8 Million

• Asbestos Abatement: $500K

The scope of work included:

• Replacing Scotch Marine 52-year-old boilers with High-Efficiency Boilers

• Designing the building for lower temperature, 140-degree water temperature versus 180-degree to achieve maximum boiler efficiencies

• Replacing old water with ultra-high (94%) water heaters

• Replacing 52-year-old air handling equipment with new air handling equipment with energy recovery

• Replacing old noisy unit ventilators with new cabinet displacement ventilation units

• Replacing plumbing fixtures with water-efficient type fixtures

• Replacing galvanized plumbing with new copper plumbing to reduce future maintenance from corrosion flaking and plugging fixtures

• Adding cooling to areas where they didn’t have it, specifically classrooms

• Adding variable frequency drives

• Adding LED lighting

• Incorporating PA Clock and Bell system which was dated and not functioning properly

• Replacing the fire alarm system

• Installing new direct digital control systems throughout the entire building which was tied into a district-wide monitoring platform at the network level

The total contract value for the Energy Savings Performance Contract was over $28.5 million. The school is projected to see energy, operational and deferred maintenance savings for the life of the buildings.

Scheduling Around the Students

Downtime can be a major concern when working in a high school. Nexus and the Kenosha Unified School District worked hand-in-hand to execute an implementation plan without disruption to the students. The project was broken up into three phases since a majority of the work had to be completed during the 55 working days of summer. Phase one was completed in the summer of 2018 and involved work on the central plant, the chiller and boiler plants, and one of the academic wings. Phase two was completed in the summer of 2019, which included the second, two-story, academic wing. The summer of 2020 will wrap up the project with the completion of the gym, auditorium, pool, distribution piping, electrical circuity, as well as the school’s educational enhancements.

Transformation of the School

The ESPC provided a creative and pragmatic solution for updating the learning environment for the students. Through bundling all of the upgrades, new technology, and renovations into one Energy Savings Performance Contract, the School District was able to re-direct energy and operational savings to funding classroom upgrades, library and auditorium renovations, and a new secure entrance addition. The school will be completing the following renovations through the ESPC:

1. Home – Economics classroom converting into a Culinary Arts Studio where the students can train for a future in the restaurant business

2. Science and Art rooms are being refurbished with new casework and finishes

3. Main Auditorium is being refreshed with new seating, new carpet paint, sound panel additions so the acoustics would be improved, and ADA compliance

4. Library is converting into a true learning commons, two walls are being removed to make one big space, technology improvements implementation and flexible furniture are being added

5. Resurfacing existing tiles and block wall to refresh outdated interior

6. Creating a new secure Main Entrance

The Value of Bundling Services

“We take a comprehensive look at the facilities with a life-cycle approach, which includes the energy improvements as well as architectural improvements and deferred maintenance needs. The least expensive option may not be the best long-term solution for a district when buildings are being refreshed to serve a couple of generations. Districts are making 40 to 50-year decisions, so we want to make sure that we educate them on the different levels of quality versus the initial price, and then work with them to make a selection,” stated Russ.

When asked what the overall benefit is to bundling energy efficiency upgrades and architectural and interior design renovations into one ESPC Russ Schumacher’s response was this; “Energy efficiency, deferred maintenance and educational adequacy improvements all have to work hand-in-hand to provide an optimal educational environment. The best and most cost-effective time to achieve this is by planning and implementing them all at the same time.”

Nexus Solutions partnered with Insite Consulting Architects to complete the architectural and interior design services. Photos provided by ICA and Nexus Solutions. InSite Consulting Architects (ICA), headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin is an award-winning architectural firm that specializes in delivering exceptional K-12 projects to their clients throughout Wisconsin. Their practice focuses on architectural design (including referendum support, master planning, programming and interior design), building enclosure technologies, forensic analysis of moisture-related building failures, institutional facilities management, and construction/contract management.

Over 19 rewarding years, ICA has had a significant impact on the K-12 built environment in Wisconsin while working with a large number of K-12 school districts across the state through their projects, their involvement with WASBO’s educational outreach and development programs, and their commitment to providing valuable services to all of our clients.

Russ Schumacher P.E., CEM, LEED AP

Russ Schumacher P.E., CEM, LEED AP

Director of Design Services & Co-Founder, Nexus Solutions

Russ is a registered mechanical engineer, a certified energy manager, and a LEED accredited professional. Russ, along with Co-Founders Michael David and Brent Jones started Nexus Solutions, seven years ago after working together for decades and designing the first LEED school building in Minnesota. Over the last 20 years, Russ and his team have been designing LEED platinum, gold and silver buildings while employing industry-leading technology.

Nexus Solutions is the Midwest’s trusted partner for serving PK-12 public schools’ facility needs. Our team creates innovative buildings, efficient energy solutions, integrated infrastructure and next generation learning spaces that work seamlessly together to deliver on the promise of inspiring students and cultivating communities.

Our commitment to sustainability dates back to 2001, when our team set the standard for K-12 school design with the first LEED-certified school in Minnesota. Our goal of delivering performance on all levels is realized through thriving facilities, students and communities.

With Nexus at the core of your facilities plan, your vision can be achieved. For additional information, please visit