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Living Building Pulls Out All the Stops

May 28, 2014 By Linda Hardesty

Phipps energy managePhipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens’ new Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburg received Net Zero Energy Building Certification, which it pursued in the Living Building Challenge issued by International Living Future Institute. The building features everything from geothermal, to solar, to wind, to a desiccant dehumidification wheel in order to conserve energy.

The building is designed to reduce annual energy usage by at least 50 percent in comparison to a traditionally-designed building and is designed to reduce capacity requirements for HVAC systems by 30-40 percent, according to Phipps.

Energy-saving attributes of the building include:

  • Passive solar design, which uses building orientation to maximize exposure for effective daylighting along with light shelves, louvers and overhangs to minimize summer cooling loads and contribute to building heating in winter.
  • A robust building envelope reduces thermal heating losses and solar cooling loads. Low-emissivity windows provide solar and thermal control and energy efficiency, while admitting maximum daylight.
  • A ground-source geothermal HVAC system generates heating and cooling. The system works in conjunction with the building’s Rooftop Energy Recovery Unit to provide heating, cooling, ventilation, and dehumidification.
  • A desiccant dehumidification wheel utilizes energy that would otherwise be exhausted to pre-treat temperature and moisture in incoming outside air with minimal energy use and without mechanical refrigeration.
  • The digital building management system alerts occupants if temperature, humidity and air quality conditions are favorable for opening windows, while also locking out mechanical systems. Meters and sensors will provide building operating profiles and trend data to monitor energy efficiency on an ongoing basis.
  • The building includes solar PV and solar water collectors as well as a vertical axis wind turbine.

Recently, DPR announced it was aiming for Net-Zero Energy Building certification by the International Living Future Institute for its new regional office in San Francisco.


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