Courageous leadership: Kenneth Seibert

Sep 10, 2023

Past president of CMTA (Prospect, KY), a national leader for delivering high performance, sustainable projects.

By Liisa Andreassen

Since 2013, Zweig Group has given the Jerry Allen Courage in Leadership Award to an AEC professional who has made a tremendous impact on their company through courageous leadership. The award winner is one who has overcome obstacles to advance their firm to a new level of success. Seibert was the 2022 winner of the award.

“I was thrilled to be the recipient of this prestigious award,” Seibert said. “This renowned award is highly respected in the AEC industry, and I’m deeply honored to be recognized.”

Recently retired, Seibert first joined the firm in 1983. He worked his way up from a graduate engineer to become a managing partner and founder of the CMTA Louisville office in 1990 and ultimately became company president in 2006. He’s a nationally-recognized expert in energy-efficient, sustainable building design.

For years, he’s been engaged in national speaking events and widely published in technical journals documenting and discussing the attainability of energy savings through good design and engineering. By collaborating with local governments, ASHRAE, U.S. Department of Energy, and organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council, Seibert helped establish a new standard for energy efficient design in the United States.

Working at CMTA for more than 37 years, he became the company and the company became him (much like Jerry Allen).

“The story of CMTA really mirrors the story of Ken,” Jeremy Smith, vice president, says. “His fingerprints are all over it. Everything we’ve done in the past 15-20 years – and even still today.”

Under Seibert's direction, CMTA grew from 45 employees and $9.8 million in revenue in 2006 to approximately 400 employees and $135 million in expected revenue in 2020. In addition, in 2007, he spearheaded the first educational net zero energy building in the U.S. – the Richardsville Elementary School in Bowling Green, Kentucky. This project became a landmark in sustainable design, proving zero energy was attainable with minimal increases in first costs and affordable public funding. Under his direction, CMTA has now designed more than 9 million square feet of net zero buildings.

It was his abilities to overcome short-term obstacles to achieve long-range goals, and confronting problems head-on that’s led to much of this success. For example, it’s exceptionally challenging to create and/or guarantee a low-cost, high performance, or zero energy building. However, CMTA produces the most energy-efficient buildings in the country due to Seibert establishing a culture of data-driven design, innovation, and operational results. He often spearheaded deep data dives into the company’s most energy-efficient designs. His tenacity for research created a culture at CMTA which continuously measures and verifies true energy usage, investigates and tests new technologies, and surveys occupants to determine performance outcomes.

This placed CMTA years ahead of others in the industry and forever out of sight from those who fail to observe and document their building design performances. Seibert often quoted W. Edwards Deming, an American engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant: “You cannot manage what you do not measure.”

Seibert created The CMTA method, known as its Building Science Leadership program. The program is based on obtaining true data, diving into the details to enhance operation, and learning from each project to improve future designs. It has produced results second to none and established national energy goals in the industry.

Tony Hans, national director of sustainable projects, says, “I’ve always felt that Ken embodies CMTA. He embodies it in how he leads, how he acts, how he listens and carries himself.”

He undoubtedly left a profound impact on national standards for building energy efficiency, which has directly led to reduced environmental impact and the reinvestment of millions of dollars of energy cost savings into education, healthcare operations, and local communities.

“On the day [Ken] left, he said, ‘I feel like I worked myself out of a job,’” James Benson, president, says. “In my mind, that’s exactly what I want to do when I walk away. I want to know that I’ve put people in the position to succeed and they don’t need me to continue. That’s a perfect ending in my mind.”

Seibert accepted the prestigious award in Las Vegas during Zweig Group’s 2022 ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala. Adding to his excitement, his wife and several CMTA leaders whom he had mentored throughout their journey at CMTA were there to support him. 

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.