Thursday, April 30, 2009
Presented by: Adin Dunning of Miller-Hull Partnership, and Andy Frichtl of Interface Engineering
What people want to learn: “Some actual hands on, real life tips on how to do this. There’s a lot of theory, but there’s not a whole lot of ‘Alright—here’s how you do it.’ People know what net-zero means, they just don’t know how to get there.” Verity Frizzell, AIA, firm principal and New Jersey COTE chair.
This session was well attended, with several hundred people in rapt attention, despite the early hour. The presenters focused on a case study of one building—the Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center, a public school in Vancouver, Wash., which has been designed, but not yet built. Programmatically, it’s mostly made up of labs that students visit to learn about ecology and the environment. Dunning detailed the building’s rural/suburban site along the Columbia River and the industrial infrastructural (dams, bridges) design motifs that surround it. Both presenters said the first actionable design step towards net-zero is to identify the site’s natural resources. Their resources: consistent cool, north winds, cool lake water, and plenty of natural light. The cool water allowed them to use a slab heating and cooling system. Miller-Hull relied completely on natural ventilation, reinforced by wooden open gabled roof forms, whose pavilion-like expression relates to other nearby buildings on the site. There are many manual user-controlled devices that operate its systems (designed by the schools engineering students), like roof ventilation panels. A wetlands green roof reduces cooling loads on the roof for the slab cooling system. The design team was able to reduce lighting energy by 75 percent, cooling energy by 100 percent, and hot water by 50 percent. In total, the building saves 85 percent of energy costs. They paid for this 15 percent gap through micro hydro and photovoltaic power. The building actually gives some energy back to the grid.
What they thought: “It was an interesting project. You do need clients that are interested in pursuing a net-zero building in order to get that kind of project to work. They way they went about it made a lot of sense. I work with an organization that takes care of a city hall and county court house. The building is over a hundred years old, but a lot of these things still apply when you’re trying to make it as energy efficient as well.” Royce Wiens, AIA, of the Municipal Building Commission in Minneapolis.
Best Practice Tip: To being with, all net-zero projects must have a motivated client and consultant team, ensure that sustainability is included in the project program, and use a collaborative design process. And here are a few that are too simple to not be true: Always begin sustainable design by reducing demand for energy consumption, and then look at ways to create systems that consume energy more efficiently. Make your building as small as it possibly can be.