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City College San Francisco's Ocean Campus, San Francisco, United States

Monday 25 Jun 2012

Room to breathe

Bruce Damonte 
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Interface Engineering designs an advanced 'breathing building' 

The new Multi-Use Facility at City College San Francisco's Ocean Campus is turning heads because of its unique design, innovative features, and outstanding energy performance. It is a model of what designers can achieve when collaboration and integration are done right. The 102,000 sf three-story building, which houses administrative offices, specialized laboratories, computer lab, study spaces, childcare/family centre, meeting rooms, a café, and other student spaces, was a partnership of two architecture firms, two higher education providers, a general contractor, and a design team which included Interface Engineering as the mechanical/electrical engineer and energy consultant.

One of the most advanced features of this ‘breathing building' is its state-of-the-art, wind-driven natural ventilation system that takes advantage of San Francisco's prevailing breezes. Using the central atrium as the building's 'lungs' to organise circulation and facilitation of air to all occupied spaces,  interior ventilation louvers draw natural ventilation from the perimeter classrooms into the atrium and out through glazed skylights. This passive system, combined with a radiant hydronic slab, distributes temperatures efficiently and significantly reduces energy use and costs.

The result is one of the largest naturally ventilated and passively cooled buildings in the United States, and the only community college building that relies purely on natural ventilation. However, it would not have been a success without some early collaboration and creativity. Early on, using advanced engineering tools, Interface and the design team explored several iterations of the building envelope, floor plan, and roof layout to help shape and orient the facility. Using CFD (computational fluid dynamic) modeling, Interface demonstrated the real world effects design decisions would make on building performance. Interface also assisted the architects in determining the proper placement of the ventilation intakes, as well as the design of the atrium and smoke control system.

Post-occupancy results for 2011, which saw record temperatures, show the LEED Gold facility performing 40 percent below state code, 70 percent below older buildings in the system, and even beating Interface's energy model predictions. In addition, it was designed to reduce water usage by 30 percent.

To further facilitate and sustain energy and water savings, the team equipped the owner with a set of tools. They include plug load and device level energy consumption monitoring and controls, feedback visualization tools for tracking energy use, flow meters for water consumption, and a BTUh and hydronic system water meters for HVAC energy use. Furthermore, outdoor wind speed, air temperature and dew point temperature monitoring help the owner further optimize the operation of the HVAC system. Lighting controls and daylighting provide additional tools for saving energy.

The Design Architect was Pfau Long Architecture, The Executive Architect was VBN Architects and the General Contractor was Lend Lease.The project was completed February 2010.



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