Call to Action: Results from the 7x7x7 Design/Energy/Water Initiative
DLR Group recently participated in the California Division of the State Architect’s 7x7x7 Design/Energy/Water initiative. Working as an integrated team of architects and engineers, we devised a simple, effective and forward looking approach for our pilot school, Bubbling Wells Elementary School in Desert Hot Springs, Calif. Beginning in January 2016 we presented our approach and solution to schools throughout the state, culminating with a final presentation at the Crest Theater in Sacramento in February 2016.
DLR Group’s team studied nine separate but layered ideas to conserve energy and water:
- Tubular Daylighting Devices
- Bio-Phase Change Material
- Desiccant Evaporative Cooling Units
- Vertical Axis Wind Turbines
- Building Integrated Flexible Photo Voltaic Roofing
- Tesla Power Wall Battery Storage
- Seashore Paspalum Turf
- Bio-Swale Palm Tree Oases
- Water Harvesting
With an eye toward the 2030 Challenge for Zero Net Energy, our approach looked forward 15 years. As we presented at the various events, two of our ideas continued to garner an enthusiastic responses—Water Harvesting and Bio Phase Change Material.
Water Harvesting uses the wind to generate energy needed to run a series of compressors that creates and collects condensate from the humidity in the air. This technology was intended to bring clean drinking water to impoverished areas around the world where fresh water is a scarcity. However, in the California desert, this idea is very appealing as well. Considering the current drought conditions in California, this truly innovative approach to conservation captured the attention of many who attended our presentations. We are exploring a test of this technology with the Palm Springs Unified School District.
Even more intriguing are bio phase change materials or Bio-PCMs. Working exactly like thermal mass elements this product freezes or ‘phase changes’ between 68 to 76 degrees. It is about an inch thick and resembles bubble wrap. The theory is that this material, when laid above ceilings or installed in walls, will limit the temperature swing within that room to about 5 degrees on either side of the set phase change point. Because only fresh air is needed to properly activate the material, it can be accomplished by utilizing the economizer cycle of the existing AC units. The implication is that we can virtually eliminate the need for air conditioning, which has an enormous impact on energy savings in buildings.
DLR Group is acting on the 7x7x7 initiative by creating a test case using this material in one school in Escondido Union School District. Two relocatable classrooms, identical in every sense, will be identified. One will be left as is and the other will have the Bio-PCM material installed. We will monitor the temperature and the air quality for three months for comparison. If the testing goes as planned, we will install this product in a middle school renovation currently under design, which will become the first major application of this material in a California public school.
Through this exercise, DLR Group is moving ever closer to achieving the 2030 Challenge, from hypothetical to real solutions. Stay tuned for more information after our testing phase of the Bio-PCM material.