March 19, 2014

Toward a More Energy-Efficient Future

The steel structure of the new Center for Building Energy Education and Innovation was completed last week at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The rendering below shows the building's finished form.

The Consortium for Building Energy Innovation (CBEI)—formerly the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub—at Philadelphia's Navy Yard is a research initiative funded by the Department of Energy and led by Penn State University that seeks to reduce the energy usage of commercial buildings 20% by 2020. We are currently undertaking the retrofitting of a 1940s recreational facility for CBEI's headquarters, along with the construction of a new classroom building across the street. Both projects aim to be completed by mid-summer of 2014. 
Over the past month, structural steel was erected for the classroom building, known as the Center for Building Energy Education and Innovation, revealing the form the eventual building will take. In keeping with the industrial character of the Navy Yard, the structural steel is left exposed in many of the building's public spaces, making the erection of the steel a critical milestone for the project. Now that the steel is in place, a second floor concrete slab can be poured and work on the exterior façade can begin. 

In the photo above, the underground connections from all 48 geothermal wells are being finalized prior to backfilling the area for a new outdoor terrace. Below, a diagram of the underground wells shows their locale relative to the two buildings and the adjacent park.

Prior to the steel erection, 48 geothermal wells were drilled into the ground just north of the building, a portion of the site that will eventually be covered with an exterior terrace and new landscaping, tying the building to the adjacent existing park. These 250-foot wells are a critical aspect of the ground-source heat pump system that will serve as the primary method for heating and cooling the building. At that depth, the earth maintains a constant temperature of about 55 degrees. In cold weather, the system will pull warmth from the earth to heat the building, while in warm weather, it will remove heat from the building and transfer it to the ground. This system is not only environmentally sustainable, it also offers long-term operations savings when compared to a conventional system.

The original arches are made of glued-laminated wood and will be retained in the retrofit of this World War II-era building. The photograph above shows ongoing construction. Below is a rendering of the finished atrium.

At the retrofit project, known as the Center for Building Energy Science and Engineering, work continues to transform the former Navy recreational building (unoccupied since the late 1990s) into a space that can welcome the public and educate visitors about energy-efficient building practices. A primary objective has been to respect the original structure, comprised of expressive glued laminated wood arches arranged in two bays. A wall dividing the original pool and gymnasium was removed, creating a single flexible space to host a diversity of programming requirements, including exhibits and public events.

A new steel mezzanine rises within the arches of the original building at the Center for Building Energy Science and Engineering.

The new structural insertions into the building are steel and will contrast with the original wood elements, which are soon to be freshly painted white. A new mezzanine sits below the existing skylights; it is conceived as an armature for mechanical distribution and provides additional meeting spaces on the second floor. This highly visible mezzanine is intended to display the distribution of systems throughout the building and reinforces CBEI's mission to demonstrate building systems in action. 
The next steps of the retrofit include the restoration of the existing building envelope and the completion of new interior components, including steel and glass partitions that provide transparency and encourage collaboration among users.