Net-zero engineering firm plants flag in Richmond

cmta execs

Lee Harrelson, left, and Drew Roberts are leading the firm’s local office in the Scott’s Addition Gather building. (Courtesy CMTA)

With its hands in a number of local projects, an engineering firm with a focus on zero-energy design has added Richmond to its list of outposts across the country.

Louisville, Kentucky-based CMTA opened an office in March at the Scott’s Addition Gather building, marking its first local presence after several years working jobs here out of its Arlington office.

The office is led by principal Lee Harrelson, who had been commuting from Arlington to oversee jobs such as LeClairRyan’s 50,000-square-foot office in the downtown SunTrust Center. The firm, whose services includes mechanical, electrical, plumbing and technology, also is working on the Capital One Café in Carytown at the former Secco Wine Bar space.

“We had been working out of our Northern Virginia office since 2005 and felt like we needed a presence in Richmond to support our Central Virginia and Hampton Roads clients,” Harrelson said. “Richmond’s a city that’s really poised for growth.”

The firm is continuing its “net zero energy” design services, which typically center on solar technology. For an elementary school in Arlington, it designed a 496-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system that made the 100,000-square-foot school’s energy supply self-sustaining.

Harrelson said CMTA also offers technology design services, including audiovisual and security systems, with a focus on security systems for campus master planning. He said the firm also provides in-house commissioning and performance contracting for its projects, allowing such scenarios as a client paying for an energy-reduction renovation through its savings as a result of that work.

If a project does not meet the firm’s energy guarantees, Harrelson said, CMTA is on the hook for the project cost.

“That really comes out of a lot of data benchmarking and confidence that what we’ve designed is going to be delivered as it’s calculated,” he said.

LeClairRyan office

CMTA’s local projects include the LeClairRyan office at the downtown SunTrust Center. (BizSense file photo)

CMTA employs about 250 people across eight offices in six states: Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia.

In addition to Capital One, the firm’s client roster in Virginia includes school systems in Harrisonburg and in Stafford, Arlington and Lancaster counties.

The Richmond office consists of Harrelson and Drew Roberts, an Arlington native who transferred from CMTA’s Lexington, Kentucky office. Harrelson said they plan to add a third employee by yearend.

While the long-term plan is to establish an office outside Gather, Harrelson said, the co-working space has been beneficial to the company, sharing space with other firms and generating leads. Another Gather occupant, D.C.-based architecture firm Hickok Cole, is also a CMTA client.

Noting Hickok Cole’s similar move to Richmond last year, Harrelson said CMTA already had Richmond on its radar but was encouraged to set up here after seeing that and other companies opening.

“It was surprising to me to find other firms that had similar plans and citing Richmond as where they wanted to plant an office and expand. We think this place is really going to grow in the near future,” he said.

CMTA joins other engineering firms jockeying for position in the local market.

Last month, Draper Aden Associates moved its headquarters from Blacksburg to its Henrico County office. Earlier this year, three local firms merged to form Koontz Bryant Johnson Williams. And Ashland firm Atlantic Geotechnical Services Inc. was acquired last year by Maryland-based Hillis-Carnes Engineering Associates.

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Bruce Anderson

Great to see you guys coming to Richmond. We are familiar with your groundbreaking work on Kentucky Schools.