ASHRAE Technology Awards Highlight Outstanding Building Projects

ATLANTA ‘ Engineers play a vital role in their communities, working to provide safe, comfortable and energy efficient buildings for everyone from students to firefighters. The winners of the 2013 ASHRAE Technology Awards have proven the value of engineering in their communities with the design of a fire station, hospital, university recreation center, nature museum, offices and even a national energy laboratory.


The ASHRAE Technology Awards recognize outstanding achievements by members who have successfully applied innovative building design.  Their designs incorporate ASHRAE standards for effective energy management and indoor air quality. The awards communicate innovative systems design to other ASHRAE members and highlight technological achievements of ASHRAE to others around the world. Winning projects are selected from entries earning regional awards.


Following are summaries of the winning projects.


Research Support Facility, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)


C-K Joseph Tai, P.E., Stantec Consulting, Inc., San Francisco, Calif., receives first place in the new commercial buildings category for the Research Support Facility, NREL, Golden, Colo. The building is owned by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Tai and his team also receive the Award of Engineering Excellence for the project.


The Research Support Facility (RSF) is a new 219,105 ft² office building on NREL’s campus in Golden, Colo. It includes everything from open and private offices to a fitness center and library. The criteria for designing the building included an absolute energy use intensity (EUI) goal of 35kBtu/sf/year, net-zero energy and the ability to use the building as a living lab to demonstration energy efficiencies strategies.


The key to the RSF’s success are its integrated systems. Lighting in the building is an integrated system of architectural and interior design details, daylight control systems, occupancy controls and high efficiency lighting. Ninety-two percent of all typical work spaces are designed to receive adequate daylight using a narrow floor plate and advanced light bouncing device.  Thermal comfort is addressed using an integrated system of thermal mass, radiant slabs, night purging and natural ventilation. The total annual energy consumption of the building is 36 percent better than a baseline ASHRAE 90.1-2004 building; the measured EUI is 33kBtu/sf/year, while on-site photovoltaic system is sized at 35kBtu/sf/year.


The RSF offsets the vast majority of its energy footprint by using electrical energy produced by solar panels. The new data center is one of the most efficient in the world due to free cooling and IT efficiency measurements.  It consumes 81 percent less energy than its predecessor, and thus reduces carbon emission by nearly five million pounds per year. In fact, the building is carbon neutral.


Rice Fergus Miller Office and Studio


Shawn Oram, Ecotope, Inc. Seattle, Wash. receives first place in the existing commercial buildings category for Rice Fergus Miller Office and Studio, Bremerton, Wash. The building is owned by Fifth Street Hilltop Partners, LLC.


The Rice Fergus Miller (RFM) Office and Studio is helping to revitalize historic downtown Bremerton, Wash., by turning an abandoned warehouse into a state of the art office building. After one year, the project has an EUI of 21.8 kBtu/sf/year, 76 percent better than the national average for office buildings, which is 93 kBtu/sf/yr. Notably, the building performance is coming within 10 percent of the modeled performance without calibration.


The RFM Office and Studio relies on occupants to play an active role in the operation and tuning of the building using an innovative ‘passive/active” hybrid mechanical system. The HVAC systems are designed to turn off when the outdoor temperatures are within the ‘passive mode” range. Red and green lights are used to signal the building mode to the occupants; green indicates passive mode when operable windows can be used for ventilation and cooling. 


A high efficiency variable refrigerant volume/flow heat pump (VRV/F) system provides space heating and cooling for 23 independent zones. The VRV/F system is switched from heating to cooling on either side of the passive operation mode; however, the super-insulated naturally ventilated building allows the heat pumps to be off for 70 percent of the year. Ventilation is provided by two energy recovery ventilators (ERV) controlled in stages based on CO2 levels. A large de-stratification fan is positioned over a central opening between the upper and lower floors. The fan mixes the space, acting as a replacement for a traditional ducted distribution system and at higher speeds provides cooling. Waste heat from the server room is recovered and used to heat the building. 


The project makes use of the plentiful rainfall for irrigation and toilet flushing from a 6,000 gallon rainwater storage, filtration and pumping system in the garage. The design offsets over 60,000 gallons of potable water use annually.


Portland State University Academic and Student Recreation Center (PSU ASRC)


Mark Koller, P.E., Interface Engineering, Portland, Ore, receives first place in the new educational facilities category for the design of the Portland State University Academic and Student Recreation Center, Ore. The building is owned by the University.


This new building on PSU’s downtown campus is home to the School of Social Work, the Oregon University System Chancellor’s Office, the recreation center’including a gymnasium and natatorium’bike hub and the City of Portland Archives.


The natatorium is served by a dedicated indoor dehumidification unit, which has air-to-air plate heat recovery, variable speed fans with dew-point control and heat recovery. The building’s gym, which consists of three courts and an elevated running track, is served by a dedicated air handler with a well water cooling coil, heating coil, variable speed fan and economizer with stack relief. The exercise equipment contains small generators which feed electricity to the building. This is used to teach building occupants how much effort is involved in generating a single kilowatt.


Radiant loss through the high percentage glazing in the lobby of the building is offset by the use of hydronic floor heating, as well as hydronic perimeter convectors. Fan-powered terminal units were utilized in most exterior zones in order to help offset envelope losses. Also, the street level retail spaces are served by a water source heat pump system that uses water from the on-site well. In the cooling season the building rejects heat to this water which is then pumped back to the ground via an injection well. In the heating season those spaces that need heat will be able to extract heat from this 56 F water.


Eastside Fire and Rescue Station 72


Jonathan Heller, P.E., Ecotope, Inc., Seattle, Wash., receives first place in the new other institutional facilities category for the design of the Eastside Fire and Rescue Station 72, Issaquah, Wash. The building is owned by the City of Issaquah.


The new fire station includes offices, living quarters, three truck bays and support spaces. The building uses 70 percent less energy and 50 percent less water compared to other typical fire stations in the region. The building was able to achieve these reductions through the use of super-insulation, heat recovery ventilation, radiant heat distribution, ground source heat pumps, solar water preheat, high efficiency appliances, advanced lighting designs and controls, and real-time energy use feedback to the occupants.


The station is held at relatively constant temperature with radiant heating and cooling in the slab. However, due to the stressful and physically demanding work required of the firefighters, the sleeping rooms are equipped with 4-pipe fan coils with individual temperature control in each private room. This allows firefighters access to cooling on demand when needed to relax after an emergency call. Also, since firefighters often have to leave the station quickly, there is not time to turn off equipment and lights. Therefore, every room has occupancy sensors for shutting off lights and unnecessary equipment. The plug receptacles that are switched from the occupancy sensors are color coded so that all non-critical equipment can be turned off with occupancy.   


One innovative aspect of the fire station is the interconnection between the solar thermal and ground source heat pump systems. A large solar thermal array was included due to the high level of hot water use in the fire station. If the solar preheat water tanks are satisfied, the excess heat collected by the solar thermal system is discharged to the geothermal loop field to recharge the ground temperature.


Swedish Issaquah Hospital


Jeremy McClanathan, ASHRAE-Certified Building Energy Modeling and Healthcare Facility Design Professional, CDi Engineers, Lynnwood, Wash., receives first place in the new health care facilities category for the Swedish Issaquah Hospital, Issaquah, Wash. The owner is Swedish Health System.


The new hospital includes an emergency department, operating rooms, imaging, cardiology and in-patient rooms. Through innovative design, the building was able to achieve a 54 percent energy savings compared to a baseline EUI 250 kBtu/sf/year for a typical hospital. Efficiency measures include a central plant heat recovery system (HRS); the use of variable air volume (VAV) air systems; recirculating air handling units (AHU) with select units 100 percent outside air capable for pandemic mode; low velocity ductwork, high efficiency AHUs and chillers; and efficient envelope and lighting.


The most innovative efficiency measure employed in the project was the central plant HRS that is estimated to provide approximately 80 percent of the building’s heating and domestic hot water with energy recovered from internal loads. It utilizes a centralized heat pump, advanced controls, heat recovery coils and a series of heat exchangers to move heat from the chilled water system to the hot water systems. In order to maintain the required pressure relationships mandated in hospitals for infection control, the building utilizes return and exhaust air tracking terminal units and venture valves in its ventilation system. This allows central AHUs to vary supply airflow rates based on demand.


Carbon emissions for the building are 47 percent lower than a baseline building, reducing 6,513 tons of carbon emissions each year. Additionally, the plumbing fixtures, selected to provide both water and energy savings, save 30 percent and 50 percent of the water used by standard fixtures.


Montréal Biodôme


André-Benoit Allard, Eng., Ecosystem, Québec City, Québec, Canada, receives first place in the existing public assembly category for the Montréal Biodôme, Quebec, Canada. The building is owned by Montréal Space for Life.


The Montréal Biodôme, a Space for Life, is filled with flora and fauna from five different replicated ecosystems from the Americas that are under one roof but vary greatly in terms of temperature, humidity and light requirements. An energy saving retrofit was performed on the building from 2008 to 2010. Overall, the building has experienced 55 percent energy savings since the retrofit and an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.


Central to the retrofit is an energy recovery and energy transfer system between the various ecosystems that is used to cool and heat other parts of the building The heat recovery system includes four heat pumps with a total rated capacity of 1,450 tons. This design allows completely secure operation, even if one of the heat pumps suffers a technical problem. The chillers’or heat pumps’of the new power plant run on R-134a. The plant has three 450-ton heat pumps used for cooling and a fourth 250-ton heat pump is dedicated to the sub-polar region of the building where colder water/glycol solution is needed. This configuration allows the three heat pumps to work in a better efficiency range.


Additionally, 42 fan and pump motors have been replaced by high efficiency motors. A number of motors were resized depending on the load they carried. They are powered by variable frequency drives and fan speed is adjusted according to each ecosystem’s unique schedule and temperature setpoint. The fresh air supply in certain sectors, such as the tropical rainforest, is controlled by CO2 sensors.


The Biodôme employs one of the biggest open-loop ground-source heat pump systems in Canada, with water drawn from the underground water some 30 meters below the building at a rate of 720,000 gallons/day. Depending on the time of year, the system meets heating and cooling needs that the heat recovery system cannot meet alone. During the summer, it is thus possible to transfer the heat from the heat pumps to the underground water and store the heat for the heating season.


ASHRAE, founded in 1894, is a building technology society with more than 50,000 members worldwide. The Society and its members focus on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration and sustainability within the industry. Through research, standards writing, publishing and continuing education, ASHRAE shapes tomorrow’s built environment today.

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