Energy Saving, Radiant Cooling, Sustainable Building

Architect vs Engineer: An Energy Saving Solution That Promotes Synergy

The traditional way in which architects and engineers work together is changing.  It is becoming widely understood that interdisciplinary collaboration is critical early in the design process if maximum sustainability is to be achieved.

Energy saving technological solutions are an excellent medium through which to increase synergy between architects and engineers. Engineers have designed many efficient building systems. But it takes collaboration with an integrated design team to create a building that unlocks the potential and an intelligent building controls system to choose the greenest operating conditions.

Radiant cooling systems are one of the leading solutions helping to promote these synergies. Prefabricated panels make installation quick and simple and reduce costs, the reduction in ductwork allows for greater architectural freedom with greater floor-to-ceiling heights. This expansion of floor-to-ceiling height enables the inclusion of much larger windows in a given space.

In order to see how exactly synergy can be achieved it is best to take a look at a real-world example such as the renovation of The Exploratorium Museum on Pier 15.


Radiant Cooling Promotes Synergy

Largest net-zero energy buildings in the United States

In 2012, a project got underway to renovate a 1931 building in San Francisco Bay. The Exploratorium Museum is a vast 330 000 square feet structure and one of the largest net-zero energy buildings in the United States. Here is a closer look at the project and how a radiant system promotes synergy.


Radiant Floor and Ceiling Slabs


Hydronic heating and cooling systems utilize a series of piping, distribution pumps and control valves to deliver heated or chilled water through a building. Radiant slabs, typically have flex tubing imbedded into concrete floor and ceiling panels.

Radiant cooling

In the Exploratorium, a network of 200 000 feet of tubing was installed. It covers 90% of the buildings floor space on 2 levels. Water is extracted from the San Francisco Bay, using eight 50-ton, water-to-water heat pumps. This water is then either warmed or chilled according to the season and distributed through the pipes into 82 different zones.

To make construction a little easier, engineers used prefabricated Radiant Rollout™ Mat design by Uponor on 80% of the floor surface. These mats reduce installation time by approximately 85% when compared with conventional radiant tubing.


Energy Saving Solutions


The Museum set out to achieve the LEED Gold Certification which by any standard is no small feat. To achieve this architects and engineers had to take a multi-faceted approach to the design and construction. Photovoltaic (PV) cells were installed on the roof of the Pier 15 structure and produce 1.3 megawatts. The power generated through its solar panels is enough to balance out the buildings demand on the local power utility in a 12 month period.

Even without the photovoltaics, the renovated facility is projected to be 57% more efficient than the ASHRAE 90.1 baseline standard for a typical U.S. museum, thanks in part to its innovative use of water from the San Francisco Bay. Along with lighting and pumps, the radiant heating and cooling system are the biggest contributor to energy savings. The heating system is expected to a yearly electrical saving of 55% while cooling a staggering 94%.


Dedicated Outdoor Air System


Radiant cooling systems do not circulate air within a space and therefore need to be combined with a ventilation system to ensure optimal comfort and compliance.

The supply of outside air (OA) for ventilation exceeds ASHRAE requirements by 30% through the use of a dedicated outdoor-air system. By creating separate systems—radiant for heating and cooling and a dedicated system for OA natural ventilation— the project was able to specify ductwork half the size that would have been necessary for an all-air variable air volume (VAV) system.


Synergy, Synergy, Synergy


At the heart of San Francisco’s waterfront, the newly renovated facility at Pier 15 promises to offer a compelling contrast in terms of breathtaking vistas, visitor amenities and an impressive assortment of architectural and engineering innovations.

According to Joseph Wenisch, project manager for Integral Group, the lead engineering and systems design company for the renovation project, they did not want to sacrifice comfort for energy savings and the radiant system used proved to be a premium comfort system.

Synergy is defined as the interaction of two elements, that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of its parts. The case study on The Exploratorium Museum is a prime example of how architects and engineers can achieve synergy through the use of energy saving solutions such as hydronic heating and cooling systems.


Radiant cooling vs all air cooling eBook

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