Green Energy Challenge Winners At NECA Show

Each year, ELECTRI International hosts the Green Energy Challenge for NECA Student Chapters. The 2016 competition challenged teams to design an energy upgrade for a K–12 facility in their community. Each proposal included a small-scale photovoltaic (PV) system design that would serve as an educational tool and emphasize detailed technical solutions for proposed systems.

This year’s winners are Iowa State University, University of Toronto (UofT) and University of Washington (UW). The teams will present their projects at NECA 2016 Boston in October.

Iowa State University

The Ames Community School District approached Cyclone Energy (the name that the Iowa State University's NECA chapter has given itself) with an opportunity to assess the new Edwards Elementary School, the first of many schools in the district to be either reconstructed or remodeled over the next 20 years.

“The district wanted to determine if the building was performing as designed and to identify opportunities for better design,” said Beth Lin Hartmann, P.E., Ph.D., LEED AP, senior lecturer, construction engineering, at Iowa State University. “The goal was to ensure that future buildings in the district will perform optimally, with Edwards Elementary being its prototype.”

Completed in 2014, Edwards Elementary is a 70,700 square-foot building. Because it is a new building, the mechanical and electrical equipment still have useful life, which means that replacing them will not be cost-effective. Moreover, the systems are incredibly energy-efficient, so there are few ways to improve them further.

With all of that said, Cyclone Energy wanted to identify ways that Edwards Elementary could be improved, and  apply those changes to future buildings.

"After a detailed analysis of the building, Cyclone Energy was able to identify a few areas that could benefit from improvement," she said. These included tightening the building's envelope with better sealing and insulation of lintels, soffits, and entrance doorways; improving the energy consumption of the lighting system with LED lighting fixtures and dimmable daylighting controls; and installing a source of renewable energy—a 6-kilowatt photovoltaic tracking system.

The total cost of the proposed updates for the school is $165,000, and will be financed using the Iowa Energy Bank Revolving Loan.

The district is expected to see a full return on investment after seven years through the project’s energy savings. The project target date is July 26, 2017.

University of Washington

The UW team formed a student contracting business and worked with the St. Joseph’s School, a 9,000-square-foot K–8 school in Seattle’s Capitol Hill area.

“They haven’t had much in the way of upgrades or retrofits since the school was built in the 1920s,” said Michael Feaster, senior project manager.

Keeping in mind that it didn't want to suggest anything that would detract from the students' learning, the team provided detailed technical solutions for all of the school’s energy-related problems. For example, it suggested occupation and daylight sensors for classroom lights dimming.

“We also recommended putting a panel in the lobby so that the students could see how much energy they were saving and where the savings were coming from,” Feaster said.

While the project has not actually gotten underway, the NECA student team did give a presentation to the students at the school on energy savings.

“We have already seen students looking for ways to save energy, including turning off lights that are not being used," Feaster said.

As Feaster sees it, the key to success of the project was the teamwork among the members.

"We worked together and learned together," he said. "We also divided systems by people on the team."

For example, one member focused on lighting, another on PV, another on the building envelope, etc.

"Another key to success was working with the local NECA chapter, which provided us with guidance," he said.

The school has the team's proposal on file and is considering it. If approved, the team would work on two classrooms. The cost of the project would be about $50,000, and the budget duration would be 95 calendar days, which would take place over the summer.

University of Toronto

UofT’s CECA Student Chapter partnered with University of Toronto Schools (UTS) for the 2016 Green Energy Challenge.

“The team visited the UTS site and conducted an ‘energy takeoff,’ on which it based a two-stage energy-efficiency retrofit for the building,” said Dmitri Naoumov, project manager. “The first stage is the upgrade of interior hallway and classroom lighting systems to high efficiency LEDs.” 

The second stage incorporates automated lighting control systems and a rooftop solar array. 

“The UofT team has conducted a preliminary estimate of costs, scheduling and potential financing for this renovation,” he said.

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