Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Kamuela, Hawaii by Flansburgh Architects
May 11th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Describe the integrated design process, other disciplines involved, and the role your firm played in it: The integrated design process included the owner, the owner’s project manager, an energy/sustainability consultant, structural engineer, and MEP engineer. Several weeklong working sessions conducted on site and attended by the entire project team allowed design ideas to be studied from multiple perspectives, fostered systems integration and enhanced communication.
Our role was to establish a clear project idea, engage project team members in the design process, and inspire them to develop creative solutions that sup- ported the design vision. For example, physical models of the proposed building and dynamic energy models prepared by an energy/sustainability consultant were used to develop and refine the shape of the building. The structural system was developed to be the architectural expression. The owner’s project manager advised on local construction systems and project costs.
Project Goals Conceived as a high school science building dedicated to the study of alternative energy, the new Energy Lab at Hawaii Preparatory Academy functions as a zero-net-energy, fully sustainable building. The project’s fundamental goal is that of educating the next generation of students in the understanding of environmentally conscious, sustainable living systems. The building’s donor, the founder of a German alternative energy corporation, believes that only through generational education will we truly achieve improved patterns of sustainability.
It was his initiative that challenged the design team to develop a green science building, insisting that it be powered principally by alternative means. The design team and Hawaii Prep’s Science Dept. Head have furthered these goals, expanding the mission to include a great number of building systems that employ sun, water, and wind.
The project targets LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certification. Recently completed in January 2010, the Energy Lab today strives as a living laboratory, furthering its educational goals as a functioning example of sustainability. The Energy Lab was developed in response to the science curriculum it houses. From small project rooms, to a large research center, to a laboratory, spaces were designed to encourage student discovery, exploration, and experimentation. The building’s configuration facilitates scientific study both indoors and out, linking interior spaces with the surrounding landscape. Students are surrounded by the systems that they study, and constantly reminded of their methods. Hawaii Prep’s Energy Lab offers a continuous sustainable ‘teaching moment’.
Sustainable Design Features The building is a LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge candidate. It attempts two exceptionally strict building programs, the latter applying mate- rial restrictions and point-of-manufacture radius limits. The building generates all power from photovoltaic and windmill sources. It presently uses only 30 percent of the energy it produces, the remainder being net-metered back into the campus grid. The building captures and filters all of its own drinking and wastewater, and generates hot water from solar thermal panels. The building is entirely naturally ventilated, and employs an experimental radiant cooling system as an alternative to air conditioning. There are many other green features but perhaps the greatest sustainable contribution is the building’s alternative energy educational mission where students actively learn from the built environment that surrounds them.
Integration with the Site The building was intentionally located at the windward edge of campus to take full advantage of the abundant trade winds that accelerate down from the hillside above. The site faces due south to picturesque 14,000-foot Mauna Kea volcano. Due southern exposure optimizes solar thermal and photovoltaic panel performance and enables many interior building views directed toward the volcano and valley below.
Given the favorable Hawaiian climate and the building’s dramatic hillside setting, direct connections to the outdoors are enhanced via operable glass doors. An entry court is located to the east, a large teaching porch opens directly south, and a wind-sheltered court to the west sponsors an outdoor, covered classroom. The topography of the hillside is reflected in the stepped, terraced arrangement of the building’s internal spaces, where storage tanks, solar panels and other systems have been strategically located to take advantage of this change in elevation.
Integration with the Community Although physically located on a windy hillside in a somewhat remote corner of campus, Hawaii Prep’s Energy Lab building is hardly isolated. The Elab online, the facility’s website, is a virtual nexus of information. The site tracks local weather data from multiple remote stations, monitors building systems and energy use, studies water consumption and rain collection, and offers all of this valuable microclimate and building data to neighboring residents of Kamuela and to the virtual community beyond.
Hawaii Prep is an active member of an international community of independent schools. Hawaii bridges the West Coast and Asian Mainland time zones, and the Energy Lab’s conference room has been designed to take advantage of this. Where formerly Hawaii may have suffered from geographical isolation, Hawaii Prep students now benefit by engaging both sides of the Pacific during their regular school day via video conferencing.
Building Systems Monitoring Although blessed with a multitude of green systems, the quintessential component of the facility is the building’s custom designed Automation System. Developed to function much like the human brain, the building is capable of regulating its breathing, cooling/heating, watering and energy generation, via input from over 250 sensors. The Energy Lab self-regulates its interior climate, maintaining temperature, relative humidity, and carbon dioxide levels in all spaces at all times. Truly a marvel, this system optimizes building performance and is believed the reason for better than anticipated yields in performance thus far.
Educating the Next Generation As noted prior, the mission of the facility to educate the next generation of students in the methods of alternative energies and subsequent building systems is what truly sets this facility apart. The building is an example of the lessons it imparts.
Water The Living Building Challenge requires that all water used in the building is captured off the roof. It is estimated that the roof area collects approximately 100,000 gallons per year based on local rainfall. The energy lab includes a 10,000-gallon water storage tank. Water from this tank is filtered for potable drinking water. It is also used for waste systems, water demand is reduced via low-volume sink and toilet fixtures.
Materials To meet the Living Building Challenge certain products including, form- aldehyde, PVC, halogenated flame retardants, chlorines, and bromides could not be used in the project. Furthermore, the LBC set transportation distance requirements for all building materials. Heavy density materials must be transported from a distance no greater than 1,000 miles, medium density materials no greater than 3,000 miles, and light density materials no greater than 5,000 miles. Hawaii’s remote location made this requirement the most difficult to achieve. The images to the left show examples of local materials that were used.
Energy Efficiency The Living Building Challenge requires that the project be a net-zero energy facility. The Energy Lab at Hawaii Preparatory Academy is powered by wind (5 kW vertical axis windmill) and sun (23 kW photovoltaic array). The facility presently consumes 30 percent of the energy it produces, net-metering the remainder into the campus grid.
Daylighting, Sun Shading & Views Polycarbonate skylights, wood sun screens, and interior roller shades all work together to introduce, reflect, and control natural daylight. These components were strategically employed to satisfy foot candle minimums, tackle glare, and enhance views, resulting in a pleasantly lit interior environment.
Natural Ventilation The building is entirely naturally ventilated. Building automated louvers maintain temperature and relative humidity levels to maintain interior comfort. If necessary, exhaust fans are activated to induce airflow.
Experimental Radiant Cooling System As an alternative to conventional air conditioning, a radiant cooling system was designed. At night water is circulated through thermal roof panels, cooled via lower evening temperatures, then stored in a below- grade tank for use as chilled water for air handling units during warm afternoons.
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Category: Educational Center