LEARNING LESSONS FROM A SUSTAINABLE BUILDING
Picture source: http://greenliving4live.com
INDUSTRIAL ENGINEER – VOLUME 47 NUMBER 3
BY NABIL NASR
In the U.S., the most recognized guideline is the Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certification program. To achieve that, the building’s design incorporated extensivefeatures to make it a living laboratory for built environment sustainability. Key features include a fuel cell as the building’s prime energy source; a microgrid to manage and store all on-site power; and state-of-the-art HVAC and air regeneration.
Now, after more than 10 months of operations, the building works remarkably well. The electricitygengeration systems (wind, solar, geothermal and fuel cell) have functioned as projected, often producing a power surplus that is exported to the rest of the RIT campus.
Our building consumes 15% of its energy budget to maintain The Illumination Engineering Society of North America’s standar lighting requirements year-round. The building was designed to direct sunlight into virtually every working space, obviating the need for most overhead illumination, even during briefer winter days. During long summer days, sensors control exterior, adjustable shutters for optimal illumination while ultraviolet coatings block heat. Speaking of heat, we filter and reuse a far higher amount than most buildings. The key is an enthalpy recovery wheel that scavenges heat from exhaust air to preheat air introduced from outside the building. Raising incoming winter air from a downright chilly 20 degrees to 40 degrees at almost zero cost represent a significant energy differential reduction of 40%.
Similarly, the building’s climate system recycles as much humidity as possible. Filtering captures a significant portion of air moisture (already warmed and stabilized) to be returned cleanly to the building environment, further reducing the energy load. Building sensors inject supplementary moisture into the air to maintain a humidity ranging from 50% to 60%.
As we approach the two-year mark of continuous operations, we have learned many lessons, including how indispensable strategic thinking and teamwork are to designing and learning to operate a building this complex. It is a tribute to our staff that they continue to uncover new ways to wring additional efficies from the many interacting systems so that the building functions equally well as a built environment technology demonstrator, an instructional center and an applied research facility.