The completion of the Zero Energy Research Laboratory at the University of North Texas will give students and researchers the tools to study the next generations of sustainable and renewable energy technologies.
The lab—the only one of its kind in Texas—is designed specifically to test various energy technologies and systems in order to achieve a net-zero consumption of energy.
Construction on UNT’s new facility began in July 2011. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at UNT’s Discovery Park on Friday, April 20 to celebrate the completion of the new facility.
The structure has a number of advanced energy technologies integrated into its 1,200-sf space, including a geothermal heat pump, a radiant heated floor slab, solar panels, a building energy monitoring and control system and a rainwater collection system, to name a few. Outside, the facility has a residential-scale wind turbine and an electric vehicle charging station.
The doors, windows, roof and supporting energy efficient equipment are designed to be easily expanded and exchanged so that researchers can analyze new building materials. Dr. Nandika D’Souza and her research team hope to use the facility to test their plant-based building materials eventually. D’Souza is developing materials made from the fibers of the kenaf plant, a cousin to bamboo, with a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
D’Souza is a key member of the Renewable Bioproducts and the Renewable Energy and Conservation research clusters. Both interdisciplinary research groups will take advantage of this unique facility to conduct cutting edge sustainability and energy research.
Dr. Yong Tao, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Energy engineering at UNT and the PACCAR Professor of Engineering, spearheaded the design and creation of the lab. Previously, Tao oversaw a similar project at Florida International University, where he served as an associate dean of their College of Engineering and Computing.
Tao also served as the director of the Future House USA project, an initiative that brought together academics, builders, industry sponsors and lobbyists to create a 3,200 square-foot zero-net energy house. The house was built in Beijing and displayed during the 2008 Olympic Games.
This project is funded at $1,150,000 with a combination of HEAF (higher education assistance funds), operating funds and gifts-in-kind. It was made possible by donations from Schneider Electric, NuconSteel, Axium Solar, H2Options/BlueScope Water, Benchmark Precision Buildings and Acme Brick. Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. is the architect of record for the facility and Nouveau Construction served as the general contractor. BD+C