Undergrads create toolkit for net zero energy design

Two students are developing a net zero toolkit with the support of ASHRAE’s Undergraduate Senior Project Grant, which awarded grants to 14 schools this year.


Two undergraduate students in their senior year at University of Oregon are working to develop a toolkit to help better understand the impacts of building construction related to net zero energy targets. Their efforts are supported by an Undergraduate Senior Project Grant from ASHRAE.

ASHRAE awarded approximately $65,000 this year to colleges and universities worldwide to promote the study and teaching of HVAC&R and encourage undergraduate students to pursue related careers. The grants are used to design and construct projects.

This year, 14 schools from around the world were awarded grants, including the University of Oregon for its proposal to develop a net zero energy design toolkit. As the top grant award winner, two students from the university are invited to present their project as part of the Student Program at the 2012 ASHRAE Winter Conference in Chicago.

As the building industry looks toward more energy efficient design, with the eventual goal of net zero energy use, additional tools are needed. The toolkit being developed by students will help facilitate understanding of the impact of design decisions on the rising cost of energy and enhance dialogue between engineers, architects, contractors, and building owners.

“The toolkit offers a three-tiered approach to investigate, evaluate, and experience the impacts of building construction in achieving net zero energy targets related to design, construction, and occupancy,” Allison Kwok, faculty advisor and branch advisor for the University of Oregon Student Branch, said.  “The approach is provided through pre-occupancy onsite investigations, post-occupancy audits of the existing building stock, and through a professional workshop between local members and students.”

The toolkit will include a building air tightness testing system as well as an infrared camera to detect moisture, missing or defective insulation, structural shortcomings, HVAC problem areas, sources of heating and cooling loss, plumbing blocks, roof leaves, and electric issues.

The kit will be used for pre- and post-occupant audits followed by a workshop, where students will discuss their real experiences with building performance analyses dealing with topics such as occupant comfort, system effectiveness, and energy use.

For more information on the grant program, visit www.ashrae.org/students.  ASHRAE will accept applications for the 2012-13 program from August to December 2011.

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