Architecture's Energy Analysis Seminar Lays Groundwork for Meeting CCA's Environmental Goals

Architecture faculty and students investigate CCA's facilities as part of innovative course

What better way to measure the energy output of the college than to start from within?

Well, that’s exactly what Architecture students did while taking the Energy Analysis seminar; they methodically measured the energy levels of existing campus buildings to document where and how energy is being used within the 25 facilities on the college’s San Francisco and Oakland campuses.

Based on the resulting data, the faculty and students worked together to research innovative energy-efficient solutions to reduce the energy requirements of the college's facilities.

Expert Faculty

Architecture faculty members Ryan Stroupe and Sam Jensen Augustine cotaught the spring 2011 Energy Analysis course, which was open to both undergraduate and graduate Architecture majors. Each instructor currently works as a senior researcher within PG&E's Pacific Energy Center (PEC), which offers educational programs, design tools, advice, and support to create energy-efficient buildings and comfortable indoor environments. Within the PEC Stroupe serves as the building performance program coordinator and Augustine is the architectural program coordinator.

"The intent of the Energy Analysis course," explained Stroupe, "was to have CCA Architecture students explore the energy usage and operational patterns of CCA facilities in an effort to improve building performance, to save energy, and to reduce green-house gas emissions. The students explored a number of facilities on both CCA campuses and produced final proposals that documented the costs and benefits of a number of implementation projects. The work was impressive for its breadth and level of technical detail. We are optimistic that the school will pursue many of the projects that the students defined."

In addition to supporting the college’s environmental objectives, the seminar was hugely successful in providing students with valuable and marketable skills and a greater understanding of the workings and operation of buildings, which will inevitably translate into more informed, accurate, and integrated design work in future Architecture studios or professional practice, or both.

CCA and the ACUPCC

In May 2010 President Stephen Beal signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), a coordinated effort on the part of the college’s President’s Sustainability Steering Group, that puts the college on a path to climate neutrality. Such an impressive objective will require ongoing strategic planning and aggressive action by the college’s administration, staff, faculty, and, most important of all, the students themselves.

The Energy Analysis seminar itself represents a response from Director of Architecture Ila Berman to encourage Architecture students to help compile the data collection, analysis, and solutions that are mission-critical to the college’s sustainability at CCA initiative: "The vast majority of energy consumed within the United States is still being generated by nonrenewable resources, and buildings account for approximately half of this energy use."

Berman further explains, "Within this context, the importance of not only exploring alternatives to current architectural design practices that reduce our occupiable footprints and that integrate more sustainable systems for energy production and use, but also investigating systems to monitor and track this use are important areas of study for the next generation of architecture students, and critical for the CCA community to understand in support of its sustainability initiatives."

Collaborative Investigation

Working as a team, including staff liaisons Director of Research and Planning David Meckel, also chair of the President’s Sustainability Steering Group, and Director of Facilities in San Francisco Noah Bartlett, students were challenged with the following activities:

  • analyze utility billing data
  • benchmark all buildings using the Environmental Protection Agency’s Portfolio Manager software
  • conduct energy audits of facilities
  • explore energy conservation measures and the feasibility of renewable energy systems
  • identify facility redesign opportunities
  • develop project proposals
  • produce financial assessments of each proposal
  • create a climate action plan and timetable

In addition to the course’s structured activities and goals, which frequently required students spend significant amounts of time on building rooftops examining mechanical units, participants were able to define and pursue their own targeted investigations, two of which are highlighted below.

Real-World Investigative Problem Solving

Students collected building performance data, which included temperature, humidity, light, and electrical power information, using digital sensors placed in the environments that were under study. Some of the student investigations also involved building simulation, redesign proposals, or investigations into the viability of other sustainability initiatives.

The proposals were framed not by mere anecdotes, but rather by actual data students collected and analyzed.

Why Does Timken Lecture Hall Get So Cold?

Timken Hall Project by Lyndon Manuel
If you've ever sat in Timken Lecture Hall for a sustained period of time, it's fairly common knowledge that bringing a sweater with you is a good idea. Energy Analysis students presented findings that partially explain why this is: inadequate air circulation (based on the hall's capacity) due to its over/under-performing ventilation unit.

Solution: Students provided no- and low-cost proposals for implementing solutions to their identified energy-consuming trouble spots such as correcting or verifying scheduled controls of the packaged unit serving Timken Hall. An integrated economizer was also recommended to allow for partial cooling and to add levels of operational control.

Higher-cost solutions, such as decoupling the ventilation from cooling/heating via Demand Control Ventilation (DVC), or using a Variable Flow Distribution (VFD) fan, or all of the above plus developing a dashboard system/interface that monitors data from sensors and controls, were included as part of the comprehensive investigation.

Regardless of the approach to resolve the issue, student recommendations offered a dual benefit: energy savings and a more comfortable environment.

Shining Light on CCA's Library

Library Project by Marieca Tye
The CCA Library on the San Francisco campus was the subject of another project undertaken by students eager to identify sources of measurable effective energy output and, conversely, areas denoting lost opportunities.

The Question: Does CCA's San Francisco library, which is located in the southwest corner of the main building and offers access to sunlight on two of its four walls, require electric lighting during the day, or can the physical space be manipulated to use the existing daylight more advantageously?

By auditing the illumination levels using HOBO data loggers (monitoring devices for such parameters as temperature and relative humidity) and manual data tracking, it became clear some areas of the library are currently over-illuminated. By attaining a more balanced amount of light, it was determined the electric light load can be reduced without adversely affecting the quality of light needed for reading and studying.

Following the initial investigation, recommendations were developed based on guidelines issued by the IESNA (Illuminating Engineering Society of North America) to reorganize the library's physical mapping into task-specific zones wherein the type of reading (e.g., medium print, contrast, newspaper, keyboard, glossy magazines, and print) was matched with the appropriate level of light based on even light and ratio of brightness levels within field of view.

By reorganizing bookshelves of varying heights, computer stations, study and reading areas, and balancing the use of shades and electric lights, measurable differences in illumination levels were documented and proved how energy efficiency in lighting alone could make a significant difference.

Considering the overhead lighting in the Nave alone accounts for almost 27 percent of all the building's energy output, it's in the college's best interest to discern practical solutions wherever possible to reduce energy waste.

Students' Research Leads to Energy-Efficient Campus

According to Bartlett, who remarked after the students' final presentations were made to President Beal, Vice President of Operations Jennifer Stein, other senior administrators, "One of the most impressive outcomes was the extent to which our students were able to identify energy-saving opportunities in difficult-to-quantify community behaviors and operational processes. Using a suite of data collection devices, they were able to identify poor energy practices and correlate them with a source. These sources were everything from heat gain through windows to janitorial schedules that resulted in lights being left on all night.

“This is precisely the type of information we need to effectively target areas for improvement. We’ve already acted on a number of the suggestions designed by the students."

The 2011 Energy Analysis TEAM

The following faculty and students are listed in the order of their appearance in the main image above, clockwise starting from back row:

  • Ryan Stroupe (CCA faculty)
  • Nathan Pundt
  • Patrick Herald
  • Brett Elliott
  • President Stephen Beal
  • Gabriel Guerriero
  • Marieca Tye
  • Samuel Jensen Augustine (CCA faculty)
  • Elyce Zahn
  • Misa Grannis
  • Lyndon Manuel
  • Sharon Lee

About CCA's Architecture Division

Undergraduate Program

The Bachelor of Architecture Program is a five-year, NAAB-accredited program committed to experiments in alternative models of practice, design, and fabrication. The curriculum accordingly brings developments in culture, media, and technology to bear on the process of architectural production, allowing students to capitalize on new opportunities in a rapidly changing profession. Learn more, including how to apply »

Graduate Program

The Master of Architecture Program focuses on material innovation, research, application, and resourcefulness within a larger social and cultural context. While providing a well-rounded architectural education, the program engages physically and digitally with old, new, and emerging building materials and systems to explore architecture as a critical and evolving practice. Digital craft, design research, interdisciplinary engagement, alternative models, and global involvement and exchange are emphasized. Learn more, including how to apply »


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