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Case Studies: The Science and Engineering of Green Tour at ABX/Greenbuild next week

If you’re going to ABX/Greenbuild next week, be sure to register for The Science and Engineering of Green, taking place on Friday, November 10, from 1:30 to 5:30 pm. This session is a tour of three recently opened interdisciplinary science centers that not only foster collaboration, but manage to significantly reduce energy use throughout each building. All three of these buildings are set on university campuses in and around the city of Boston; each dealing with specific site and program requirements. Though they look quite different in form, all offer insight into energy efficient labs.

Laboratories are some of the most energy-intensive building types. On average they have an EUI of 370 kBtu/SF. Reducing the environmental impact of lab buildings requires integration of high performance strategies from the outset. All three buildings on the tour employed similar strategies to drive down energy usage starting with minimizing building loads and utilizing high performance mechanical systems. Ventilation was decoupled from heating and cooling loads by employing efficient radiant systems that delivers only the air necessary for health and safety of the space. This strategy was combined with occupancy sensors to further set back the ventilation when spaces are unoccupied. Daylight harvesting and high performance lighting further drive down the energy usage.

Read about the buildings:

Boston University, Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences


Image: Boston University. Credit: Chuck Choi Photography, courtesy of Payette

Boston University needed an interdisciplinary building to bring together life scientists, engineers and physicians for the study of systems neuroscience, cognitive neuroimaging and biological design. With a compact footprint and a prominent location on a tight urban site along Boston’s famed Commonwealth Avenue, this nine-story, high-intensity academic research building employed a highly unorthodox move: all major mechanical and electrical equipment is located on the second and third floors instead of on the roof (visible from the street) or below grade (susceptible to flood damage). This move kept resiliency in mind. The mechanical systems sit above projected end-of-century flood plain levels. The project includes water conservation measures achieving a 36% reduction over code and a photovoltaic-ready roof infrastructure. Furthermore, the strategic move of the mechanical equipment also gave the lab floors views of the Charles River over the adjacent historic temple.

Instead of a conventional “one-size-fits-all” approach to program distribution, a layered strategy was implemented on each upper lab floor by creating low, medium and high intensity zones. This allows for low intensity program spaces and high-intensity program spaces to be located on the same floor without an ‘energy penalty.’ At the ground level, a vibrant network of interconnecting lobbies, building amenities and outdoor spaces intimately link the building to its neighbors and the urban campus.

The Kilachand Center employs an array of energy savings measures. High efficiency LED lighting systems are used throughout, and daylight harvesting controls are utilized in the perimeter offices, write-up areas and interactive spaces. Primary HVAC systems include chilled beams that minimize the amount of primary air suppled to occupied spaces. Fume hoods incorporate variable volume exhaust controls to modulate airflow, and ventilation airflow is reduced when labs are unoccupied. Spaces with large occupancy fluctuations, such as the colloquium and commons rooms on the ground floor, utilize demand-controlled ventilation to control outside air rate. To modulate pump speed, the building’s large mechanical and plumbing pumps are equipped with variable speed drives, as are its main exhaust fans. Condensing boilers utilize lower operating temperatures to improve hot water heating efficiency.

This Kilachand Center achieved an EUI of 141 kBtu/SF, which amounts to 72% energy savings over a comparable typical lab.

Read more.

Northeastern University, Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC)


Image: Northeastern University. Credit: Warren Jagger Photography, courtesy of Payette

Constructed on an urban brownfield site between two existing parking garages, the ISEC is the first step of a long-term vision to extend the fabric of Northeastern University’s Huntington Avenue campus across the MBTA and Amtrak rail lines, connecting the Fenway and Roxbury neighborhoods. The project reflects the University’s ambition to establish itself as a premier research institution with the addition of a state-of-the-art science facility in Boston.

The building’s dynamic skin was developed using a parametric model and custom compositing software that enabled the design team to accurately simulate solar performance, and thus optimize the sunshade system design. Sunshade system performance output was fed directly into the building energy model, allowing the engineers to right-size the MEP equipment with great precision. This workflow yielded significant cost savings at an order of magnitude seldom realized with such accuracy. The parametric model was also integrated directly with fabrication models of the custom curtainwall, enabling its complex elements to be unitized for rapid on-site installation.

In order to ensure the comfort of occupants in the building, the design process integrated design and simulation tools to ensure the performance of the environment within the building. Clever detailing and thermal modeling enabled the team to minimize thermal breaks despite extensive integrated catwalk systems with substantial structural loads in the custom curtain wall. CFD modeling ensured the triple glazing would provide a comfortable interior environment on the coldest days without supplemental heating and the chilled beams wouldn’t create areas of discomfort. Daylighting studies explored the performance of the atrium skylights, adjusting their orientation to minimize interior glare and maximize their daylighting potential. This performance-driven design process coupled with automated systems such as daylighting controls and window shades ensure occupant comfort in a building that is tuned to its environment. The daylit atrium pulls apart the typical insular research building creating a vibrant interior environment where every space has views to both the exterior and atrium. Informal workspaces are defined by their connections to the exterior and atrium-like bridges, orienting students and researchers within the building and campus.

This project achieved an EUI of 103 kBtu/SF, which amounts to 75% energy savings over a typical lab. In the research labs, glazed walls allow unobstructed views through the research spaces while separating the high and low energy use zones, reducing the volume of ventilated research space, which works to reduce the overall building energy use. 

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Tufts University, Science and Engineering Complex


‚ÄčImage: Tufts University. Credit: Chuck Choi Photography, courtesy of Payette

A delicate glass box floats effortlessly between two historic red brick bookends. Its skin radiates a warm materiality, complements the surrounding brick and lends quiet dignity to the existing buildings. The 79,000 SF addition acts much like a battery pack, providing new life and infrastructure to underutilized historic structures, while simultaneously creating a dynamic 177,000 SF integrated high-tech hub for open communication and cross pollination. The contingent forms shape a nested series of interior and exterior spaces that heighten awareness of the existing buildings, their different geometries experience as a series of spatial layers and transparencies that weave inside and outside, old and new, each dependent on one another.

The building provides open, efficient and adaptable wet/dry research laboratories arranged to support interdisciplinary research clusters in Biology, Environmental Science, Engineering, Neuroscience and Computational Research. Within the clusters, a high-low energy strategy was developed where energy intensive open labs and lab support areas are wrapped in a low-energy buffer comprised of separated write-up zones and naturally ventilated offices, collaboration areas and corridors. Rigorous programming and energy modelling validated the use of high efficiency radiant panels and chilled beams throughout the building and enabled lighting power density and plug loads to be minimized. On the exterior, a triple glazed façade eliminates the need for perimeter heating while building geometry and overhangs work in conjunction with glare control mechanisms to minimize summer heat gain. 

This integrated approach to sustainable strategies yields a project with an EUI of 112 kBtu/SF annually, which is a 77% energy savings over a typical lab, equivalent to the energy usage of 606 homes.

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The design strategies behind these three buildings remain committed to fusing design and performance. These are projects that embed “green” strategies deep in the design—from cascade air systems to thoughtful sunshading systems that complement the building form—they do no compromise the design intent for building performance and vice versa. These high performing buildings set the bar for reducing environmental impact of crucial places of collaboration on academic campuses.