ASHRAE Student Design and Applied Engineering Winners Announced

Nov. 4, 2014
In the Student Design Competition, teams designed a two-story office building. In the Applied Engineering Challenge, students designed a small portable air conditioner.

ASHRAE recently announced the winners in its 2014 Student Design Competition and 2014 Applied Engineering Challenge.

Teams in the Student Design Competition were challenged to design a two-story office building with research-and-development facility in New York City. Student teams outside of the United States were allowed to locate the building in the capital of their state, province, or country.

In the Applied Engineering Challenge, students were required to design and specify a small portable air conditioner that is affordable, maintainable, and effective in a given local cultural environment.

Thirty-nine entries from 13 countries were received for the competition and challenge.

Student Design Competition

In the Student Design Competition, first place was awarded in the following categories:

HVAC Design Calculations: from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, the team of Christopher Erickson, associate engineer, Universal Creative, Orlando; Ian Faulkner, mechanical designer, exp U.S. Services, Orlando; DJ Marshall, mechanical engineer, TLC Engineering for Architecture, Orlando; Richard Suarez, quality engineer, Rockwell Collins, San Diego; Kristian Jack Szymanski, Coral Springs, Fla.; and Ju Young Yu, Winter Park, Fla. Their faculty advisor is Gabriel Vazquez, PhD.

The team’s objective was to design a cost-effective high-efficiency HVAC system providing excellent indoor-air quality (IAQ). It selected variable-refrigerant-flow (VRF) systems with simultaneous heating and cooling and dedicated outdoor-air systems (DOAS) with energy recovery. Other equipment included air valves for laboratory areas and high-efficiency-particulate-air filters and exhaust fans to eliminate contamination.

A 20-ton DOAS unit, three condensing units, and several heat-recovery units were used to supply required air to all types of VRF units in the building. A separate 50-ton DOAS unit was used for laboratory areas because of the high air-change requirement of the cleanroom and high exhaust rate in the four research-and-development areas. For each DOAS unit, an exhaust fan was used, with one additional exhaust fan selected for emergencies, such as a refrigeration leak.

The total cost associated with the selected systems was $570,203. The design encompasses efficiency, health and safety, comfort, functionality, longevity, flexibility, and maintainability with a low life-cycle cost.

HVAC System Selection: from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., the team of John Gaito, Kathryn Helmer, Lexie Oliver, Alex Pint, Megan C. Walkowiak, and Gordon Zimmerman, all of whom are senior-level students in architectural engineering. Their faculty advisors are Julia Keen, PhD, PE, HPBD, and Fred Hasler, PE.

The students selected a ground-source-heat-pump (GSHP) system in which water is pumped through vertical piping in the ground, providing a heat source and heat sink for the heat pumps. The main water loop serves the heat pumps and DOAS, allowing heat transfer between spaces to maximize energy efficiency.

The GSHP system met all of the owner’s requirements in using the ground as a heat sink and heat source to serve the building. As a result, the energy savings are immense. This creates a low-cost, reliable, flexible, maintainable, sustainable system.

An unusual feature of the system was a wall of vegetation created by attaching plants that do not require soil to a mesh grid. Ten small bio-walls are used to decrease energy consumption for the entire building by decreasing required ventilation in the office spaces.

Integrated Sustainable Building Design: from Montana State University in Bozeman, the team of Elyse Casper; Theresa R. Lindenau, Bozeman, Mont.; Terra Moran, materials engineer, Imperial Oil, Calgary, Alberta;  Mary Peterson, project engineer in the commercial solutions division, 3M, Saint Paul, Minn.; and Martin Reaves, founder, Monolithic, Bozeman, Mont. Their faculty advisor is Kevin Amende, PE.

For the HVAC systems, the students implemented multiple systems with high efficiencies, using the nearby river as a heat exchanger. The main system—a VRF system—is more expensive upfront, but more cost-effective and energy-saving throughout the life of the building. It was implemented to condition the open-office, library, meeting, and mailroom spaces. It has the additional benefit of requiring no ductwork, only the routing of small refrigerant lines.

Fresh air is pre-conditioned by a heat-recovery ventilation unit that exchanges energy with exhaust air leaving the building. This recovers energy while improving air quality. Fresh air is vented directly into the fan-coil units in the VRF spaces, first mixed and then distributed throughout the rooms. Fresh air for the computer-server and research and design spaces is ducted into the heat pumps and blown into the rooms directly. Acoustic and filtration specifications were addressed through appropriate noise-dampening and filtration products.

Review of data showed energy consumption was reduced by almost 70 percent, cooling load was reduced by over 60 tons, and carbon and greenhouse-gas emissions were more than halved. The new design pays back after 12 years and will save the owner almost $1 million by the end of 40 years. Although the design did not reach net zero, the improvements were exponential. With a larger budget or new construction, the net-zero goal could be realized.

Applied Engineering Challenge

In the Applied Engineering Challenge, first place went to a team from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo: Juan Silva, sales operation, SYSERCO, Fremont, Calif., and Nelson E. Echeverry, design engineer, Donald F. Dickerson Associates, Tarzana, Calif. Their faculty advisors are Steffen Peuker, PhD, and Jesse Maddren, PhD, PE.

The system involves a series of measures that a family living in Mexico City can take to improve the IAQ in their house. Starting in the kitchen, a wood stove with a chimney attached was used to vent out the smoke caused from burning biomass. The stove provides heating during cold days, reduces pollution caused by inefficient cooking stoves, and provides reliable operation.

Next, in the living room, a window fan was modified with an external air filter at the inlet of the fan, capturing most of the harmful contaminants and allowing fresh air to enter the house. With forced airflow, pollutants are dispersed. A window fan providing a capacity of 1,400 cfm is sufficient to supply the entire house. For cooling, students chose a window unit, which helps in reducing humidity.

One major benefit is that units are portable and easily can be installed in a new or different home. Two financial tiers were created: one targeting low- to middle-class families, providing equipment and devices to satisfy comfort needs and improve health with less-expensive materials, and one for high- to middle-class families containing a power generator and window unit.

The projects will be shared during the 2015 ASHRAE Winter Conference, which will be held Jan. 24-28 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.

About the Author

Scott Arnold | Executive Editor

Described by a colleague as "a cyborg ... requir(ing) virtually no sleep, no time off, and bland nourishment that can be consumed while at his desk" who was sent "back from the future not to terminate anyone, but with the prime directive 'to edit dry technical copy' in order to save the world at a later date," Scott Arnold joined the editorial staff of HPAC Engineering in 1999. Prior to that, he worked as an editor for daily newspapers and a specialty-publications company. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Kent State University.