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The net zero-energy home: precedent and catalyst for local performance-based architecture

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The building sector is responsible for consuming the largest proportional share of global material and energy resources. Some observers assert that buildings are the problem and the solution to climate

The building sector is responsible for consuming the largest proportional share of global material and energy resources. Some observers assert that buildings are the problem and the solution to climate change. It appears that in the United States a coherent national energy policy to encourage rapid building performance improvements is not imminent. In this environment, where many climate and ecological scientists believe we are running out of time to reverse the effects of anthropogenic climate change, a local grass-roots effort to create demonstration net zero-energy buildings (ZEB) appears necessary. This paper documents the process of designing a ZEB in a community with no existing documented ZEB precedent. The project will establish a framework for collecting design, performance, and financial data for use by architects, building scientists, and the community at large. This type of information may prove critical in order to foster a near-term local demand for net zero-energy buildings.

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  • 2014

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A methodology to sequentially identify cost effective energy efficiency measures: application to net zero school buildings

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Schools all around the country are improving the performance of their buildings by adopting high performance design principles. Higher levels of energy efficiency can pave the way for K-12 Schools

Schools all around the country are improving the performance of their buildings by adopting high performance design principles. Higher levels of energy efficiency can pave the way for K-12 Schools to achieve net zero energy (NZE) conditions, a state where the energy generated by on-site renewable sources are sufficient to meet the cumulative annual energy demands of the facility. A key capability for the proliferation of Net Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) is the need for a design methodology that identifies the optimum mix of energy efficient design features to be incorporated into the building. The design methodology should take into account the interaction effects of various energy efficiency measures as well as their associated costs so that life cycle cost can be minimized for the entire life span of the building.

This research aims at developing such a methodology for generating cost effective net zero energy solutions for school buildings. The Department of Energy (DOE) prototype primary school, meant to serve as the starting baseline, was modeled in the building energy simulation software eQUEST and made compliant with the requirement of ASHRAE 90.1-2007. Commonly used efficiency measures, for which credible initial cost and maintenance data were available, were selected as the parametric design set. An initial sensitivity analysis was conducted by using the Morris Method to rank the efficiency measures in terms of their importance and interaction strengths. A sequential search technique was adopted to search the solution space and identify combinations that lie near the Pareto-optimal front; this allowed various minimum cost design solutions to be identified corresponding to different energy savings levels.

Based on the results of this study, it was found that the cost optimal combination of measures over the 30 year analysis span resulted in an annual energy cost reduction of 47%, while net zero site energy conditions were achieved by the addition of a 435 kW photovoltaic generation system that covered 73% of the roof area. The simple payback period for the additional technology required to achieve NZE conditions was calculated to be 26.3 years and carried a 37.4% premium over the initial building construction cost. The study identifies future work in how to automate this computationally conservative search technique so that it can provide practical feedback to the building designer during all stages of the design process.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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A comparison of EnergyPlus and eQUEST whole building energy simulation results for a medium sized office building

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With the increasing interest in energy efficient building design, whole building energy simulation programs are increasingly employed in the design process to help architects and engineers determine which design alternatives

With the increasing interest in energy efficient building design, whole building energy simulation programs are increasingly employed in the design process to help architects and engineers determine which design alternatives save energy and are cost effective. DOE-2 is one of the most popular programs used by the building energy simulation community. eQUEST is a powerful graphic user interface for the DOE-2 engine. EnergyPlus is the newest generation simulation program under development by the U.S. Department of Energy which adds new modeling features beyond the DOE-2's capability. The new modeling capabilities of EnergyPlus make it possible to model new and complex building technologies which cannot be modeled by other whole building energy simulation programs. On the other hand, EnergyPlus models, especially with a large number of zones, run much slower than those of eQUEST. Both eQUEST and EnergyPlus offer their own set of advantages and disadvantages. The choice of which building simulation program should be used might vary in each case. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the potential of both the programs to do the whole building energy analysis and compare the results with the actual building energy performance. For this purpose the energy simulation of a fully functional building is done in eQUEST and EnergyPlus and the results were compared with utility data of the building to identify the degree of closeness with which simulation results match with the actual heat and energy flows in building. It was observed in this study that eQUEST is easy to use and quick in producing results that would especially help in the taking critical decisions during the design phase. On the other hand EnergyPlus aids in modeling complex systems, producing more accurate results, but consumes more time. The choice of simulation program might change depending on the usability and applicability of the program to our need in different phases of a building's lifecycle. Therefore, it makes sense if a common front end is designed for both these simulation programs thereby allowing the user to select either the DOE-2.2 engine or the EnergyPlus engine based upon the need in each particular case.

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Date Created
  • 2010