Saturday, March 20, 2010

Solar Assessment at the Krafts

My aunt and uncle are planning to renovate and expand their kitchen and asked me if there is an opportunity for solar photovoltaics as part of the project. The expansion will include a new addition to the southwest corner of the home, which is located in Winchester, Massachussetts. Unfortunately, early in the morning the sun will be blocked from the new single story roof by the existing building, which is three stories above grade. There will also be some time in the spring and fall, when the sun is still lower in the sky, when the neighbor's trees will partially shade the new roof (shown in the picture below without leaves). On average, the area of the new roof will receive sunlight about 66% of the time in the location shown in these images. This perecentage improves a little bit further away from the existing building, but will then be affected more by the trees (and the leaves that will appear shortly).

The analysis was done using a Solar Eye digital camera, which uses a fish eye lens to take a 360 degree photo of the horizon. As long as the camera is set to point towards due south, is leveled before shooting, and has the coordinates of a nearby location (the city of Boston in this case) entered into it's computer, the device is able to overlay the path of the sun and check for times of shading. I'll probably use the PV Watts program to evaluate how much electricity would be produced if they were to put photovoltaic panels on the new roof. We'll also look at the tax credits and rebates available to help offset the initial cost. We'll also try to put a price on the value of creating their own renewable energy on the new roof just below the second floor bathroom used by their four boys and the education they'll receive as a result.

Photos by Lisa Cordner.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Francis Lab Commissioning

On Friday, March 5th, Kevin Bright, Kevin Sheehan, Philip Kreycik, and I met with representatives from the electrician, controls contractor, balancer, and construction manager as part of the commissioning process for the Francis Lab in the Harvard Biolabs building. We checked every occupancy sensor in the space, including those that control the overhead lights and thermostats as well as those that control the task lighting at all of the lab benches. Many of the overhead occupancy sensors were located too close to air diffuser vents and would never shut off, so we had to re-set the sensitivity (in most cases electing to switch them to infrared only rather than using the ultrasonic / infrared dual technology). We also put each fan coil unit into heating and cooling modes and checked schedules and worked with Siemens to fix anything we found such as opportunities for simultaneous heating and cooling or non-responsive thermostats. While there, we compared what was installed to the drawings to see if the as-built drawings needed to be updated. We found a couple of concrete penetrations without sleeves, but determined this was outside the scope of work for this project. We also found a hole in a compressed air line that would need to be repaired. Finally, we checked the face velocity for the fume hoods, making sure that they stayed at 100 fpm at all sash heights. Unfortunately, some peculiarities with the building's HVAC system didn't allow us to run the face velocity any lower. The first fume hood we tested wasn't programmed properly and wasn't responding to the sash height. Kevin Bright continued the functional testing process for the remaining building systems after the rest of the Harvard Office for Sustainability team left and we've since shared our list of issues with the project manager. This is one of multiple visits to the site as construction winds down, which is part of the functional testing component of commissioning. At OFS, we always try to conduct full ASHRAE Guideline 0 commissioning and include plumbing systems in addition to energy systems and include user training in addition to occupant training. We've found the process to be extremely beneficial and cost effective for the interior fit-out projects that we're targeting.

Clark University Presentation

On Tuesday, March 16th, I was a guest lecturer in Professor Will O'Brien's MGMT 252 Green Business Management course at Clark University. The course is supposed to introduce the concept and practice of sustainable development and energy management as they related to local small business, local government, local non-profits, and local citizens. I came in and spoke about how Harvard University was embracing sustainability. My presentation was similar to others I've given on the subject, though updated somewhat. The presentation can be found here.

Professor O'Brien taught a Sustainable Business course as part of the Masters of Science in Facilities Management program I'm pursuing through Massachusetts Maritime Academy. The sustainability plan found here is one my group did for Taza Chocolate as part of that class.