High Performance Buildings — Learning beyond the Classroom
High Performance Buildings Field Trip: MEL in High Performance Buildings students received a hands-on experience of the mechanical systems of a large building on the Point Grey campus.
UBC campuses house a wide range of facilities that provide diverse types of buildings with vastly different operating systems. On March 12, MEL in High Performance Buildings (HPB) students received a hands-on experience of the mechanical systems of a large building on the Point Grey campus: the Life Sciences Centre (LSC). The students toured the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. The building was constructed in 2004 and since then, has received many alterations to system control algorithms to reduce energy consumption. The 52,000 m2 building contains labs, offices and classrooms, providing an extremely interesting case study for the students. The tour was led by Blair Antcliffe, Energy Engineer with UBC’s Energy and Water unit. Blair started in the classroom with a review of the engineering design philosophy and drawings of the building HVAC systems.
LSC houses some of UBC’s most sophisticed and mission-critical labs, and the ventilation systems must be accessible for maintenance and upgrades. This equipment is housed in the “interstitial” floors between the real occupied floors. The tour began in in one of these spaces. For some of the participants, this was their first time being exposed to these systems up-close.
The group then entered the building’s main mechanical room in the basement. Here, they were exposed to (and sometimes walked inside) the central equipment: three conventional chillers, one heat recovery chiller, 10 heat exchanges, 34 air handling units and 53 pumps. The scale of the mechanical room provided students with an appreciation of the hidden complexity of modern buildings.
Next, the students were able to see the air intake ventilation up-close, literally standing under the grate and next to the vents which circulate air throughout the building. The students learned how integral air distribution is to the utility of a building — as LSC has active labs, there are strict minimum air changes per hour that the building must facilitate.
On the building roof, students saw the cooling towers where heat from chillers is rejected to the environment. As large as this equipment is, wastes less heat than many buildings of its size, because LSC’s primary operating strategy is to use heat pumps to move heat around the building and to/from the campus hot water system.
Through this thorough and detailed first-person encounter with these systems, these MEL students were given the opportunity to truly enrich their learning beyond the classroom. UBC’s infrastructure provides an incredible and convenient source of case studies and learning opportunities for students in technical programs to experience working systems and apply this knowledge to a real-world context.
On this trip, students learned about the HVAC system in one of the largest buildings on campus, but the learning opportunities are endless — from campus structures whose construction dates back to 1914, to the numerous projects currently under construction — giving students the ability to learn about their field in many contexts, and with a holistic approach.
The faculty who led and organized the tour are experts in their field and actively work to create these opportunities and ensure that the students experience meaningful instruction with real-world relevance. The cohort will continue their education over the next year with many more opportunities such as these in the future.