NSPE TODAY: PROJECT PE
University Green Building ‘Once-in-a-Career Opportunity’ for PE
The Challenge: The University of South Carolina has long been a leader in green building. In 2004, it opened the first green residential hall in the US. And the university’s new Darla Moore School of Business, which opened in fall 2014, is in the final stages of achieving a LEED Platinum designation from the US Green Building Council. The university also aims to make it the first net-zero higher education facility of its kind in the southeastern US, able to generate as much energy as it consumes.
The Department of Energy selected USC to partner with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on the business school, as part of its competitive Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative.
Full-service architecture, engineering, and interior design firm Stevens & Wilkinson teamed up with Rafael Viñoly Architects for the design-bid project. USC is the alma mater of NSPE member Keith Branham, P.E., senior vice president and director of engineering for Stevens & Wilkinson, and the company had completed many past projects for the university. Stevens & Wilkinson focused on energy efficiency, with the university slated to later add renewable energy sources to support the net-zero initiative. Budget and the ability for the university to maintain the building once designed and occupied were major constraints, as were dramatic elevation changes on site and the need to work within the unique architecture.
The Solutions: The building’s hybrid HVAC systems incorporate under-floor air, active chilled beams, and variable air volume systems, all designed to reduce the amount of power needed to move air for heating and cooling. A separate HVAC system was designed for the building’s 500-seat lecture and performance hall in coordination with an acoustics consultant.
Sustainable elements include green turf for heat reduction, reusable waste management systems, and natural daylighting. Rainwater harvesting for irrigation and toilet flushing help achieve the building’s more than 50% water-use reduction.
Electrical systems were efficiently distributed from the main switchgear via two vertical power feeders to equipment located on each of the building’s six levels. An emergency power system services life-safety loads and other required emergency equipment in case of an outage.
An energy monitoring system includes interior and exterior lighting, heating and cooling, fan motors, elevators, kitchen equipment, and building-plug loads.
To address the site’s dramatic elevation changes, the team incorporated building entries on multiple levels to maximize operational flexibility. Civil engineering design ensured proper storm water management for flood prevention.
Complexities included transfer columns for the structural design, resulting in flexibility for a planted roof and potential future pavilions.
Specs: The project’s total cost was $108 million. The approximately 260,000 gross-square-feet building includes 35 classrooms; 136 offices; more than 40 meeting rooms; 79,000 square feet of public space; a digitized library; a central courtyard; a double-height enclosed garden pavilion; and a landscaped green roof for events and receptions.
Modeling projects an annual energy savings of approximately $170,000, with a return on investment of five to seven years.
The building’s sustainable design makes it 43% more energy efficient than the ASHRAE 90.1 standard.
The PE’s Role: NSPE member Branham oversaw the engineering for the project. Underneath him were directors for the various disciplines. NSPE member Michelle Motchos, P.E., was the lead structural engineer. Kevin Eubanks, P.E., served as lead civil engineer, and Eric Smith, P.E., as lead mechanical/plumbing engineer.
Because the building required such a technical design, Branham explains, the PE education and experience were invaluable. “I do believe PEs are the most technical, best designers when it comes to projects like this.”