South Carolina business school on track to be region’s first net-zero energy commercial building

The project is part of a large DOE initiative to develop more buildings that can generate as much energy as they consume.

August 31, 2015 |
University of South Carolina’s Darla School of Business

University of South Carolina’s Darla School of Business. Image courtesy Firewater Photography; other images courtesy Bruce Damonte

Later this year, the newest building at the University of South Carolina’s Darla School of Business expects to achieve LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The 260,000-sf building, which opened in August 2014, is on a path to be recognized as the first net-zero energy higher education facility of its kind in the southeastern U.S.

The university was chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy to partner with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as part of DOE’s Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative, whose goal is to provide marketable net-zero energy commercial buildings by 2025.

Rafael Viñoly Architects was the architect of record on this $108 million project, and Atlanta-based Stevens & Wilkinson provided the engineering design via its Columbia, S.C., office. 

The building’s efficiency features include:
• HVAC systems with under-floor air, active chilled beams, and variable air volumes, all designed to reduce the energy needed to heat and cool the building. A separate HVAC system serves the school’s 500-seat lecture and performance hall. Stevens & Wilkinson also worked with an acoustics consultant, which lead the firm to increase duct sizes for a quieter environment.
• Sustainability is achieved through the use of green turf for heat reduction, reusable waste management systems, and natural daylighting. Rainwater is harvested for irrigation and toilet use, which should the building’s overall water usage by more than 50%.
• Electrical equipment on each of the building’s six levels is charged by two vertical power feeders connected to the building’s main switchgear. An emergency power system services life-safety loads and emergency equipment in the event of power outages.
• An energy monitoring system measures power used by such equipment and components as interior and exterior lighting, heating and cooling, fan motors, elevators, kitchen equipment, and building-plug loads. “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.” said Keith Branham, PE, LEED AP, Senior Vice President, Director of Engineering for Stevens & Wilkinson.

The net result has produced an optimized energy performance of 43%, which exceeds ASHRAE’s 90.1 standard for these kinds of buildings. The school was made more flexible by incorporating entries on multiple levels. And civil engineering design ensures proper storm water management for flood prevention, site utilities, and government agency approvals.

 

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