Bristol Community College (BCC) located in Fall River, Massachusetts, is one of the fastest growing educational facilities of its kind in the Northeastern United States. When a need to expand its campus to accommodate an ever-increasing student population arose, BCC chose to design a zero-energy building that would inspire as well as motivate its young scholars towards a long-term commitment to eco-friendly living.
The result is a new 50,600 SF learning space costing $31.5 million, the largest zero-net energy science building in the region. The two-story design includes an indoor atrium, a large solar array field, and filtered ductless fume hoods for reheated and recirculated air. The zero-energy building is so impressive that it has won several regional and national awards, including a place on the 2017 Top Ten Green Project award winners by the AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE).
BCC zero-energy building design: Challenges and solutions
BCC is no ordinary community college. This academic institution offers over 150 programs in such impressive fields as nursing, dental hygiene, biology, biotechnology, microbiology, and general chemistry. Unfortunately, most of these areas of study involve massive laboratory spaces utilizing enormous amounts of power. Achieving a zero-net energy building would require innovation, forethought, and detailed coordination among multiple architectural and engineering disciplines.
One of the major design concepts includes a large solar array field creatively located just above the neighboring parking lots. The solar panels work in tandem with the photovoltaic array placed on the new facility’s roof, which the designers successfully predicted requires no burning of fossil fuels for heating and cooling. The building consumes less than 20% of the array.
Other design elements of the zero-energy structure include:
- Solar production of hot water
- Geothermal wells located 500 feet below ground that feed directly into a ground source heat pump
- Efficient LED lighting, both inside and outside
- Estimated lighting power of 0.58 watts PSF
- Estimated 20% energy cost reduction compared to building code requirements
- Use of Lean constructing principles to streamline scheduling and reduce waste
- Three prefabricated mechanical rooms of eco-friendly precast, each weighing 10-15 tons
- Offsite commissioning and controls testing to allow for “plug-and-play” installation of the pre-fab mechanical rooms
- LEED Platinum certification, the highest possible rating
- 12 out of 16 fume hoods for filtering and recirculating internal air flow
- Enthalpy wheel heat recovery
- Air quality sensing technologies
- 100% of water consumption acquired from rainwater
- Nearly 96% of construction waste successfully diverted from landfill
- Exterior building envelope comprised of environmentally friendly cast-in-place concrete, curtainwalls, cedar planks, and brick.
- Estimated carbon emissions of 92lbs CO₂ PSF
Even though the new Bristol Community College facility is in the cold climate of Massachusetts, construction only required 24-months to complete. Meanwhile, all neighboring buildings, parking lots, and offices were to remain fully operational at all times so that there would be no disruptions to student learning.
The zero-energy building is designed by Sasaki Architects of Watertown and constructed by Bond Brothers Construction of Everett. In July of 2016, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker officiated over the ribbon cutting ceremony for what is now known as the John J. Sbrega Health and Science Building for Bristol Community College.
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