Computer Science Building Poses Energy-Efficiency Challenges

By Chris Matt, Associate Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Managers Generate Funding for Capital ProjectsPt. 2: Energy Retrofit Program Cuts Energy CostsPt. 3: University Hires Consultants for Energy AuditsPt. 4: HVAC Retrofits Generate Significant Energy SavingsPt. 5: This PagePt. 6: HVAC Recommissioning Targets Stanford's Largest Buildings

A significant difference exists between Stauffer 1 and the Gates Computer Science Building, another one of the 12 biggest energy users; namely, Gates already had many components in place before any retrofits that typically lead to more efficient operations.

Gates has some classrooms and offices but mainly houses robotic labs and computational work. It featured a VAV system, window switches and a DDC system, albeit an outdated one. Despite the more energy-efficient technology, the building was not performing efficiently.

“You go, ‘Wow, this building should be doing great. It should be our best building,’” Gould says. “But we’ve never really seen the performance we hoped to.”

Managers updated technology in the Gates building, but they also had to change the way occupants operated inside the facility. For example, occupants historically could adjust the temperature over a broad range, says Wheeler, who also manages Gates.

“We were attempting to raise that discharge temperature to reduce our chilled-water use, to minimize our reheat and give them a tighter band to work in,” he says. “To an extent, it was a bit of a culture change for people that had been in the building for years.”

Wheeler and his colleagues also addressed HVAC scheduling, which created concern among occupants who wanted to work after hours.

“(We implemented) time scheduling so that zones were shut down after certain times at night,” Wheeler says. “The engineering design, by having override switches, (addressed that concern) in case that situation occurred where they were going to be working during the times where we would normally schedule a system off.”

With much of the technology now in place, Wheeler and his staff are working to fine-tune the systems inside Gates. But it is hard for Gould and Wheeler to quantify savings for the computer science building, due to additional servers and other equipment constantly being added to the fray. The Gates project is in the commissioning phase.

“It’s actually been too early to tell if it’s been successful or not,” Gould says.

Managers already have identified another 13 buildings that comprise the next biggest group of energy users on campus. If all scheduled retrofits are completed on time, Stanford will have addressed its 25 most energy-intensive buildings by 2012.

The university has a history of implementing energy-saving measures in its facilities, but the Capital Retrofits Program signaled a shift in its commitment to sustainability.

Says Wheeler, “We still want to design energy-efficient buildings. But maybe there’s new technologies or maybe there’s different ways of doing it, and we need to put them all on the table and make smarter decisions.”

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  posted on 12/1/2008   Article Use Policy

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