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Student design competition winners show outstanding integration

Thu, 10/11/2012 - 11:38am
International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories
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Winning Entry: Modular Sustainability, Carnegie Mellon University. Image courtesy of I2SL   

The International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL), with support from the U.S. Dept. of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs, has announced the winners and honorable mentions for its International Sustainable Laboratory Student Design Competition, held in partnership with the Joint Institute for Caribbean Marine Studies (JICMS), and in collaboration with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). The competition enabled architecture and engineering students from around the world to provide new and innovative thinking for the creation of energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable laboratories.

Specifically, students were challenged to design to the specifications of the proposed Salt River Bay Marine Research and Education Center (MREC) to be located in Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, a U.S. National Park unit on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This real-life project will consist of a marine laboratory, education center, and museum collections complex.

Of the 120 submitted projects, two winning designs stood out because of their integrated systems approach. The three Honorable Mention projects exhibited fascinating design qualities that the five-member jury decided were important to recognize. (Jurors were Alison Farmer, Andelman and Lelek Engineering Inc.; Ken Kornberg, Kornberg Associates Architects; Paul Mathew, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Steve Meder, University of Hawaii-Manoa; and Arleen O'Donnell, Eastern Research Group Inc.)

The winners attended the recent Labs21 2012 Conference in San Jose, Calif., where they received their awards and presented their designs to the conference audience of more than 700 high-tech facility professionals. Additional information about the competition can be found on ACSA's Website (http://bit.ly/NN60YY ).

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Winning Entry: MR + EC, Clemson University. Image courtesy of I2SL   

This article features short descriptions and photos of the two winning entries and for photos of Honorable Mention projects. For more information about the competition and/or the competition program, visit the I2SL or ACSA Websites.

Winning Entry: Modular Sustainability
According to the judges, this Carnegie Mellon University project, by Dan Addis, John Kim, and Jensen Ying, with faculty sponsor Gary P. Moshier, shows a well-documented and thorough sustainable systems analysis and demonstrates a thoughtful, integrated approach to the design process. The submission includes a straightforward and clear design presentation with a contextual and understated architectural statement. The proposed laboratory systems, particularly the HVAC systems, are practical and site specific, while the design of the community space is creative and inviting.

A summary of the project from the submittal appears below:
While considering the program of the research campus, factors relating to sustainability and carbon footprints surfaced. From the outset, the team recognized that connecting the research campus to the local grid was not a proper solution. In our research, three naturally occurring forces have proven to be the means of viable solutions: prevailing winds, consistent solar exposure, and oceanic water. The resulting design solution would follow a net zero energy consumption with all its facility needs safely harvested and disposed.

The eastern prevailing winds became a driving force in the design of the campus's master plan. Natural cooling through wind creates a temperature differential enough to raise the comfort levels. With a larger eastern opening, created by the buildings' massing, and a narrower western choke, the campus creates a Venturi effect that conditions the adjacent spaces. In addition, the orientation maximizes northern and southern exposure to take full advantage of solar power generation, while allowing for effective daylighting from the north.

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Honorable Mention: EnviroLAB: A Response to Natural Forces. Arthur Joel Herman, Sara Lichti, Taylor Maine, and Ike Chinonso Onyekachi, University of Kansas, with faculty sponsor Paola Sanguinetti. Image courtesy of I2SL   

Consistent solar exposure upon the site gives reason for photovoltaic thermal (PVT) arrays. These rooftop units provide all of the campus's energy, domestic hot water, and integrated systems. One of these systems includes the research laboratory's air conditioning unit. The unit uses a heat pipe, which removes heat form the incoming air before the cooling coil and uses the same energy to reheat cold supply air.

In addition, where a deep-sea water inlet is required for specimen tanks, a secondary inlet pipe wraps to a closed loop heat exchanger that transfers heat from the air conditioner's condenser unit to a continuous, open loop of seawater. The process eliminates the need to mechanically reheat the supply air. This system, paired with a salt-water "Sea-OThermal" heat exchanger, allows for a smaller, more efficient unit.

The potable water demands for all buildings are facilitated through rooftop rainwater collection. Once collected, the rainwater is diverted into one of two cisterns. The primary laboratory-grade water tank is attached to a purification unit that consists of a carbon filter and a UV light sanitizer. Excess rainwater is deposited in a central cistern that runs a similar cleansing process to provide potable water to the entire campus. All wastewater from the campus is collected and processed on-site in a passive, environmentally friendly way.

The "Marsh Machine" is the campus's blackwater filtration system and response to the island's poor septic system. The system uses naturally present ecology to bring wastewater near potable conditions without the use of hazardous chemicals or significant energy expenditures while presented as planted, featured exhibits.

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Honorable Mention: Zero Energy Research Outlook (ZERO). Won Seok Chu, Carnegie Mellon University, with faculty sponsor Gary P. Moshier. Image courtesy of I2SL   

The combination of systems integration and natural remediation allows the campus to function with extreme efficiency and minimal environmental impact. The implementation of a seawater inlet as a heat exchanger, paired with a heat pipe energy recovery system, allows for high-performance air conditioning units. Similarly, the PVT arrays, the energy transfer module, and the "Marsh Machine" work together to generate huge amounts of energy with minimal environmental disturbance.

Winning Entry: MR+EC
The judges determined that this project, by Dianah Katzenberger and Caitlin Ranson of Clemson University, with faculty sponsor Ulrike Heine, demonstrates sensitive site planning and architectural design, including a compact use of the site. The design takes advantage of natural resources in its use of solar thermal design, photovoltaic panels, daylighting, and rainwater collection. The project also adapts to extreme weather conditions and incorporates passive design with a clear building performance analysis. There is a logical hybrid system approach to natural and conditioned spaces.

A summary of the project from the submittal appears below:
The MR+EC is situated on a hillside facing due north. The site offers direct views to the sea and a level of shelter within the Salt River Bay. The location takes advantage of easterly tradewinds, and affords connections to ridge, reef, beach and mangrove ecosystems. The project uses an existing road as its main point of access.

The campus is organized around a central spine integrated into the sloping topography of the hillside. The path steps down the hillside to connect the ridge and the reef, terminating at the dock facility. Buildings are positioned along this spine based on programmatic adjacencies, and the degree of the private or public nature. Structures are oriented on an east-west axis to minimize unwanted solar heat gain and maximize views to the sea. As one moves through the campus, however, the spaces between the buildings are just as important as the buildings themselves. The campus opens itself to the pleasant climate, allowing breezes to move through and between its structures. Courtyards, patios, terraces, and an amphitheater define the new landscape.

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Student design competition Honorable Mention: LAND_AND_SEE. Nicola Bötsch and Lionel Herinckx, Université Laval (Québec), with faculty sponsor Jan B. Zwiejski. Image courtesy of I2SL   

The laboratory form began as a two-story mass embedded in the hillside, with the circulation route of the central spine continuing through it. The form was carved and opened to permit daylighting, natural ventilation, views, and outdoor living spaces. The program is stacked within the two floors to simplify construction, minimize cost, and provide a logical plan for the users. The building is entered from the main courtyard on the upper floor. The main staircase brings visitors from the entry through the cantilevered portion of the upper floor to the outdoor classroom/ breakout space on the lower floor.

Two different roof types define two unique, interlocking forms. The butterfly roof is angled to maximize solar harvesting for both photovoltaic and solar thermal panels on its south-facing roof, and to collect rainwater that is then transferred to the below-ground cisterns, via the pool in the faculty courtyard. The upper floor is passively cooled and ventilated, and the lower floor is conditioned only in the wet laboratory space. The laboratory is connected to the dock and boathouse with a public path that begins at the building's western entry and passes through the dining terrace.

The four elevations are each a response to the site’s solar patterns. East and west facades are shaded with a teak louver system, while substantial overhangs on both levels protect the glazing of the south façade. The north façade is predominately glazing, with a large outdoor terrace on the upper level. Large storm shutters that, when open, overlap the non-glazed portions of the north façade, slide along a track to protect the glazing in the event of a severe storm.

The laboratory is an exposed steel structure of columns, beams and girders: powder coated and painted black to protect against climatic conditions. Concrete shear walls at the restrooms and fire stair provide lateral stability. The floors are exposed concrete, except for the wood flooring of the entry and lobby spaces. The material palette is simple and limited so the structure frames its surroundings rather than imposing itself upon them.

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