Contractormag 2712 Stevenswilkinson

Business school on path to becoming Largest Net-Zero Energy Building in Southeastern U.S.

Nov. 9, 2015
The Darla Moore School of Business features a number of sustainable design elements that include: Rainwater harvesting for irrigation and building toilet use.  The use of green turf for heat reduction Reusable waste management systems A state-of-the-art hybrid HVAC system  Natural daylighting. 
The University of South Carolina’s new Darla Moore School of Business. Photo by Firewater Photography.

ATLANTA – The University of South Carolina’s new Darla Moore School of Business is slated to achieve LEED Platinum designation from the U.S. Green Building Council later this year.

The university was hand-selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to partner with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as part of the agency’s Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative.

The prestigious program, designed to help the DOE achieve a goal of providing marketable net-zero energy commercial buildings by 2025, served as a key project focus for Stevens & Wilkinson, engineer on record for the project, and partner-firm Rafael Viñoly Architects (RVA), architect of record.

The new Darla Moore School of Business showcases the university’s longstanding commitment to efficient energy usage as it is anticipated to become the first net-zero energy higher education facility of its kind in the southeastern U.S. capable of generating as much energy as it consumes through the design of advanced technologies.

“Our team implemented smart design solutions that make the new Darla Moore School of Business a highly sustainable, functional and visually dynamic facility for the university’s students and faculty,” said Keith Branham, P.E., LEED AP, senior vice president, director of engineering for Stevens & Wilkinson, S.C., who served as lead for the project. “We are thrilled because we know each of the methods and technologies developed during the design of this building will guide efforts for all new facilities located or associated with the University of South Carolina moving forward.”

Improving building efficiency

Designed with the goal of furthering the school’s mission of providing students with a top-tier education, one that welcomes collaboration, encourages excellence and incites creativity, the new Darla Moore School of Business features a number of sustainable design elements that include: the use of green turf for heat reduction; reusable waste management systems; a state-of-the-art hybrid HVAC system; and natural daylighting. Rainwater harvesting for irrigation and building toilet use also contributes to the building’s overall water-use reduction of more than 50 percent.

With dedicated outdoor air systems designed to provide users with pristine fresh air, the building’s new HVAC systems are engineered with under-floor air, active chilled beams and variable air volume systems, all designed to reduce the amount of horsepower needed to move air for heating and cooling. In addition, a separate HVAC system was incorporated for use of the building’s 500-seat lecture and performance hall, in order to achieve quiet air conditioning without impacting the room’s acoustics. The firm coordinated with an acoustics consultant to generate desired reverberation characteristics, an endeavor that closely entailed monitoring duct velocities, thereby increasing the duct size to ensure a quieter environment.

From an electrical standpoint, systems were efficiently distributed from the main switchgear by way of two vertical power feeders to equipment located on each of the building’s six levels. An emergency power system was developed to service life-safety loads and other legally required emergency equipment in the event of a power outage.

An energy monitoring system was also designed and implemented to measure the amount of energy used by the building and was created specifically for systems and components that include interior and exterior lighting, heating and cooling, fan motors, elevators, kitchen equipment, and building-plug loads.

Branham said all successful outcomes, when taking into consideration the preliminary information, yielded directly from the system. “Given our region’s hot, and at times, humid climate, our team’s efforts will help curb the amount of energy needed to effectively heat and cool a building of this size and magnitude.”

The net result of the building’s blended sustainable design features an optimized energy performance of 43 percent, a percentage that is much higher than the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ (ASHRAE) 90.1 standards.

Given the site’s dramatic elevation changes, the team specifically implemented solutions to maximize the facility’s operational flexibility by incorporating building entries on multiple levels. Furthermore, civil engineering design services ensured proper storm water management for flood prevention, site utilities and government agency approvals.

Accelerated site and structural design packages were also issued to meet the rigorous planning schedule and expedited start date of construction. Complexities included transfer columns to achieve the desired structural design, resulting in flexibility for a planted roof and potential future pavilions. Outboard columns required special consideration for bracing, while site soils required attention and monitoring in order to limit settlement impacts. 

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