April 15, 2013 – As the result of a marked District growth, tBP/Architecture embarked on a master planning effort to determine how best to accommodate more students, alleviate overcrowded conditions during lunch and passing periods, create learning opportunities and echo student sentiment while creating a sustainable campus environment. The answer to this puzzle…create a well placed Expansion Project that incorporated new energy saving systems. tBP and Irvine USD challenged each other to approach the problem of reducing energy use-age in a new way from a fresh perspective. tBP investigated many different active energy system technologies to determine which system would fit the campus and community best. We researched solar photovoltaic systems, solar water heating, wind turbines and fuel cell systems to evaluate and determine the simple pay-back period, measured each system for its’ intrinsic educational value as well as determining the long time viability. Our matrix revealed that using solar photovoltaic panels as a lunch shelter could reap high benefits and a fuel cell system could serve the campus and learning goals reaping a sustainable legacy.
The Expansion Project, Music/Fitness Enclave and Aquatic Center, is now open and we have learned two things about employing active energy systems. First, active energy systems are evolving constantly and photovoltaic panels have become the first acceptable choice to reduce energy demands of a campus. The photovoltaic array we designed as a lunch shelter accomplished many of the goals set out in the master plan: use less energy, provide shade and shelter, provide a secondary lunch shelter and provide a hub of activity. The shelter’s intrinsic value has increased because it has created a learning opportunity for students to understand how much energy can be generated and at what times during the day. The design recollects the original iconic campus shade structures while celebrating the evolution of technology. The photovoltaic panels provide close to the total energy usage of the 23,000 square foot facilities expansion.
Second, the other active energy system chosen was fuel cell technologies. Fuel cell systems are new to the marketplace and are truly on the cutting edge of design. Fuel cell technology has evolved substantially from school bus-sized energy generating systems that can power a city, to a reductive technology where with miniaturization, a small filing cabinet sized unit can power 13% of the campus’ electrical needs and generate enough heat to provide 40% of the campus pool’s heat requirements. Unfortunately, implementation of the system proved impossible due to manufacturing difficulties.
Other sustainable choices employed on campus were a unique air displacement system, use of reclaimed water for toilet water and landscaping, acoustic performance, sola-tube natural day lighting system, 100% reclaimed water irrigation system, third-party building commissioning, energy management system, low emitting and recycled materials.