February 6, 2012

CUSD Designs Building Prototype

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Cornell University Sustainable Design, a group that is hoping to build the University’s first entirely student-designed building on campus, has completed its initial design of a Sustainability Research Facility. CUSD will construct a prototype of a single room this semester to test energy-efficient parts for the building, said CUSD team leader Jeremy Blum ’12.

Students completed an architectural rendering of the SRF — which they hope will house the David R. Atkinson ’60 Center for a Sustainable Future — over winter break, according to Blum.

“We have a design to work off and so now all of our technical sub-teams have this idea of what the building may look like and can design their systems around it, which is a really big step forward,” Blum said.

CUSD is currently working to build a model room to test sample parts for the building that various companies have donated, as well as parts built by students last semester, according to Blum.

“We finally have available to us … the High Volt Lab that’s located on Mitchell Street a few minutes off-campus,” Blum said. “It’s a huge, huge empty building where we’re planning on building a full-scale prototype room this semester …. We’re actually going to build an entire room.”

The prototype will allow CUSD project teams to refine their designs and to experiment with different building techniques, Blum said.

“It will give the interior design team a chance to work out potential ideas and plans, and the modular structures team the opportunity to figure out how to implement movable walls, which we’re planning to use inside of the eventual building,” Blum said.

The movable walls would allow the building to be a “modularized” space, or adaptable for different purposes, according to Blum.

A site has not yet been chosen to house the SRF, although three potential locations are being considered — one near Dilmun Hill Student Farm and two sites “on the east part of campus” — University Planner Mina Amundsen told The Sun in September.

CUSD’s current design calls for a three-story building, the first floor of which would be the “mechanical area,” according to Blum.

“We’re planning to have things like an anaerobic digester, which takes food waste and converts it to energy and compost,” he said.

According to Blum, the first floor would also be partially underground, allowing students and researchers to see the machines at work. Plans for the second floor include an open atrium to serve as a gathering space, and possibly an eatery. Research labs are planned for the third floor.

“This is exciting because the facility is designed to simultaneously operate as a research building and an educational tool that will help to teach people about renewable energy technologies,” Blum said.

Researchers would be able to remove parts of the building and replace them with older parts to learn how to best maximize energy efficiency in older buildings, according to Blum.

“For example, let’s say, we have a modular HVAC system — heating, ventilation, air conditioning — such that we can swap our state-of-the-art one out with one that’s used in a lot of buildings in the ’70s, so that we so that we could do an analysis of how an older building could be upgraded to save energy,” Blum said.

Before it is ready to seek approval for the plan from the University Board of Trustees, the group will first need to finish its design and perform a cost analysis of the proposed building, Blum said.

According to Aylin Gucalp ’14, CUSD business team leader and outreach director, the analysis will determine “on a year-to-year basis what the building’s maintenance and just general operations will entail.”

Blum said he hopes CUSD will be ready to seek the Board’s approval by the summer.

Original Author: Joseph Niczky