Posts tagged project updates

Windows of opportunity

The modular units for Hickory Hall have begun arriving at Emory & Henry.  They look pretty nondescript right now.  They’re just modular building blocks sitting on trailers.  The above picture is the foundation for Hickory, and if you look far off into the distance you can see the trailers lined up in front of the baseball field.

 One thing you might notice in the picture below is the little sticker that says “Made in Ireland” in the bottom right corner of one of the panes.Why did we order windows from Ireland?  Well, it turns out that to get a Passive House Certified window, you have to go across the pond.  As you can imagine, these aren’t your average windows.  They are triple glazed, filled with argon gas, and have a low-e coating.  What does all that mean? Excellent insulation characteristics, of course, to meet  rigorous Passive House standards.

Take a look at the window cross section below.  This is from a double glazed, high-performance window:

Now, look at the cross section of this triple glazed Passive House style window:

Notice a difference? The first window isn’t a bad window at all.  In fact, it’s not even a standard builder’s grade window.  It’s still got a low-e coating and inert gas.  But the second window, well, it’s just plain impressive.  It’s got an extra pane of glass in there, with an extra layer of inert gas for insulation.  In addition, it’s fully thermally broken, meaning that the window and the frame won’t transfer much thermal energy from the outside or inside (called thermal bridging).

The result is astonishing.  Preliminary modeling suggest that just changing the windows lowered our heating load by 20-25%.  How is this possible? Well, a good double glazed window will have a u-value of about .3 (equal to an R-value of about 3.3).  A triple pane window will be about half that, or .15 (equal to an R-value of about 6.6).  So, it’s only twice as a efficient, right?  Not quite.  Take a look at this chart of u-value to performance:

Notice that it’s a nonlinear relationship going from a u-value of 1 to .5 gains a little, going from .3 to .15 gains a lot.  It’s the same for walls.  If you look at the chart again, you’ll see that you gain a lot more by going from u-value of .2 to .1 than from .3 to .2.  These windows are also tilt-and-turn instead of double-hung, which means a much better seal and far less air leakage.

So that’s the story of our fancy Irish windows.  Hopefully next time you look at a building, you’ll have a new appreciation for the windows and the role they play in a building’s energy performance.


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Semester wrap-up

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’m back for the end of the semester rush.  Over the past month, I decided to give the blog a rest.  I thought about whether it was the best way for me to communicate my work at Hollins and E&H, and whether anyone was still reading it.  And after this crisis of confidence, I decided that I’d just keep writing anyways and think about using other forms of communication as well.  So, I’ll be back with regular updates (at least weekly) on what’s going on at both campuses.

With that being said, I’d like to congratulate the residents of Stuart and West Halls at  E&H and Hollins, respectively.  Both won their inaugural energy challenges, although both were close contests.  Even though we are small institutions, we helped contribute to the 1.7 million kWh saved during the course of the Campus Conservation Nationals.  It was a great effort from more than 100 schools across the country, and we hope to compete (and win!) next year as well.

Now for some project updates.  Last month E&H broke ground on its latest residence hall, which was designed to achieve passive house certification (read more about PH here).  Like its sister building, Elm Hall, Hickory Hall will be built using modular construction and should be much more energy-efficient than our existing residence halls.  I’ll provide updates during the construction process this summer.  Construction is also well underway for the Brooks Field House, which will utilize a geothermal HVAC system and was designed to achieve LEED-Silver certification.

Not to be outdone, Hollins will be retrofitting its largest residence hall, Tinker House, with a geothermal system as well.  Work is scheduled to start in a few weeks and will wrap up before the students return in the fall.  We’re excited to see how this new system performs and, as above, I’ll be posting pictures along the way.  Until then, this picture of Dana’s solar panels on this beautiful day will have to suffice.

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Hollins goes Silver

Today, Hollins announced it’s first LEED-Certified building.  The Robbie Hunt Burton Alumnae Cottage received LEED silver certification from the US Green Building Council and the Green Building Certification Institute.  The Alumnae Cottage was constructed in 1905 and received a recent renovation that included a geothermal HVAC system, water-efficient fixtures, and energy-efficient appliances.  Sustainable interior materials were used extensively throughout the project, including bamboo flooring and other building materials containing recycled content.  Additionally, 100% of the construction waste was recycled.

The geothermal goodness doesn’t end there, though.  This summer, Hollins will putting it’s largest residence hall on a geothermal heating and cooling system.  This will involve boring approximately 75, 400-foot wells.  Work is slated to begin right after our students leave in May and finish before school begins again in August.

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Smart Reporting Coming Soon

You might see the image below popping up in classrooms and restrooms soon, so here’s a little bit of explanation.  In the next few weeks, we’ll be rolling out a test project at Hollins that will allow you to report facilities-related issues right from your smartphone (or if you’re on campus, from any computer).  If you have a smartphone, simply use a barcode scanner app (any one should work, I use Barcode Scanner on my phone) and you’ll be presented with a link that will take you to a form.  All you have to do is select which building you’re in, which floor you’re on, and what you’d like to report and you’re all done.  It’s quick and easy, and we hope you’ll use it often to help us save water and energy.

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Metering Madness

One recurring theme I’ve heard from both campuses is that we haven’t done a great job publicizing our energy efforts.  A major accomplishment that isn’t well-known on either campus is the installation of electric sub-meters on selected buildings.  The meters allow us to target our energy efficiency strategies to the biggest consumers.  Our meters not only allow us to see how much energy each building consumes, but also their demand profiles (see the post about Dana Science for an example) and voltage readings.  The demand profile tells us when the building draws the most amount of power. Roughly half of our bill is based on this factor alone (called a demand charge), so it’s a pretty important feature.  We hope to make all of this meter data publicly available and visible to all those who wish to see it (click here to see what Hollins has done so far).

And for the meters, here is the inventory:

Hollins: Dana, Moody, Botetourt, Swananoa, Pleasants, Turner, East, West, Main, Gym, Randolph, and Tinker.

Emory & Henry (these meters are installed, but not reporting data yet): Kelly Library, Chapel, Wiley Jackson, Collins, Stuart, President’s House, M-S Hall, Wiley Hall, Sullins, Carriger, Byars, Elm, Martin-Brock, King Center, Steam Plant, Van Dyke, Hillman French Stuart, and Emily Williams

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