The responsible use of all forms of energy and the good health of the University of Idaho and local communities are high priorities of the university, which is committed to environmental, economic and social sustainability. One of the ways U of I fosters these priorities is by developing sustainable building standards for new buildings and major building renovation projects. Sustainable building standards yield cost savings through reduced operating costs; help to provide a healthy and productive environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors; and contribute to the university’s goals of protecting, conserving and enhancing the region’s and state’s environmental resources.
The University of Idaho has incorporated specific precepts, strategies, and technologies related to sustainable building design in the design and construction of each facility recently identified and completed under the current Long Range Campus Development Plan (LRCPD). Architectural strategies such as siting based upon environmental determinants, daylighting, solar shading of glazing and sustainable materials are incorporated in facilities such as the Idaho Commons, Student Recreation Center, and Agricultural Biotechnology Laboratory. Mechanical systems are designed to be efficient—often exceeding Idaho State Energy Code requirements—and make use of strategies such as heat recovery, Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs), zoning, location of intakes based upon environmental determinants and digital controls. The following sections identify recent and ongoing efforts to incorporate sustainable building practices at the University of Idaho.
It is the policy of the university to finance, plan, design, construct, manage, renovate and maintain its facilities in a sustainable fashion. While construction of sustainable buildings potentially incurs additional first costs—both in terms of design fees and construction costs—sustainable buildings have reduced operating costs. The university recognizes that investing in sustainable building practices usually has a short payback period and yields substantial savings over the life cycle of the completed facility. Examples of design standards that have been implemented in campus buildings include:
- Building air conditioning systems make extensive use of economizer cooling to use outside air for cooling (when temperatures allow) instead of mechanical energy.
- Air handling systems for nearly all major fan systems use VFDs to reduce fan energy and prolong motor life.
- Chilled and hot water systems on campus use variable flow systems with VFDs to minimize pumping energy and extend pump motor life.
- Chilled water from the District Chilled Water Network is the preferred means to provide heat rejection demands for items such as food and storage locker coolers within the university’s food service venues, IT servers and the various research applications on campus. This eliminates avoidable costs related to individual air-cooled condensing units and improves efficiency.
- Nearly all of the newer lab buildings and some other facilities such as the new Living Learning Center make extensive use of heat recovery systems to reduce energy costs by tempering (heating and/or cooling) ventilation air. The University of Idaho is a leader in the state in terms of the use of heat recovery systems in laboratory facilities.
- HVAC systems for all new buildings and major remodeled buildings are controlled through a campus wide Energy Management System (EMS) and have an unoccupied mode sequence of controls where possible.
- All new buildings and major remodeled buildings are sub-metered for energy use (steam, electricity, and chilled water), and water use for both domestic and irrigation systems.
All new construction and major remodels (in excess of 50% of state replacement value) shall be certified as meeting or exceeding a Silver LEED rating or equivalent according to the latest edition of the U.S. Green Building Council LEED rating system and accompanying Reference Guide. Design and project management teams are encouraged to meet higher LEED rating levels such as Gold or Platinum. Use of an alternative green building standard is allowed as long as a clear rationale is provided as to why the alternative standard should be considered equivalent or superior to LEED Silver or Gold. Particular emphasis should be placed on achieving the LEED points related to optimizing energy performance, advanced commissioning, and measurement and verification while advancing the mission of the building, the campus and the university.
Recent examples of pursuing LEED certification can be seen at the Integrated Research and Innovation Center (IRIC) and the newly remodeled College of Education Building. Both of these buildings have been certified LEED Gold. The Idaho Water Center in Boise, ID was designed to meet LEED Silver requirements, but U of I has not applied for certification. The Idaho Central Credit Union Arena project is also being designed for LEED Silver, but will not be certified.
Facilities Services is continuing to expand its implementation of unoccupied modes for building HVAC systems at the University of Idaho. Since the Moscow campus has a wide variety of building types and ages, it is not possible to apply the same unoccupied strategy to all buildings. Buildings at the university with air handling units that are controlled through the campus Energy Management System (EMS) are generally scheduled to switch between occupied and unoccupied mode on a fixed schedule. A typically occupied mode is Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The actual schedule will vary for each building depending on the regular scheduled operating hours for a particular building. Generally the occupied mode schedule will begin one hour prior to, and end one-hour after the posted building opening/closing hours.
Unoccupied schedules can be overridden by those who need to use the space during that time. When overridden, the system will switch to occupied mode for 3 hours. It takes time for the system to respond, so activate the override 1 hour before needed. Please note that the entire zone will be overridden, not just the specific space needed. See below for instructions:
The unoccupied override button is typically located on the local Zone-Sensor, which is mounted on a wall somewhere near the area controlled by that senor. The zone-sensor is a small off-white plastic box that looks like a thermostat. Newer models have the word "Siemens" on the lower right, and the unoccupied override button is located just below the digital display of the room temperature. This button, which is the only active button, has a symbol of a sun and moon on it. Older models have the word “Powers” printed on the front, and the unoccupied override button is a very small (1/8 inch diameter), white button on the left-end of the top-face of the sensor. As a zone sensor is not located in every room (this is especially true for offices), you may have to go to a neighboring room or corridor to find a zone sensor.
Since most of our buildings have some irregular after-hours use, it is our policy to always have a method to locally override the unoccupied mode. All new and recently upgraded systems have Siemens controls, so the description of the override button above will apply in most situations. Currently we have implemented the unoccupied control strategy only in buildings with this type of electronic controls, so if you are in an older building that does not have this type of system, your building is not yet affected.
For all new buildings and major remodel capital projects, the university implements a modified commissioning process. This process involves a team approach to implement a customized commissioning process on key project systems and is incorporated in the University of Idaho Design and Construction Standards for new and renovation project efforts. The team consists of the project mechanical consulting engineer, the project manager, construction inspector and construction manager from University of Idaho Architectural and Engineering Services department, and an air balance consultant.