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Article_karidis.jpg

©2017 This excerpt taken from the article of the same name which appeared in ASHRAE Journal, vol. 59, no. 5, May 2017

By George Karidis, P.E., Member ASHRAE; Oscar Cobb Jr., P.E., Member ASHRAE.

About the Author
George Karidis, P.E., is a vice president and corporate engineer, science and technology, and Oscar Cobb Jr., P.E., is an associate and senior mechanical engineer with SmithGroupJJR in Detroit.

Imagine starting your journey to a career as an engineer in a place built just for that purpose. You conduct solar and wind experiments on a rooftop energy lab or engine tests in the thermodynamics lab. Your lab’s systems are designed for learning. Oakland University provides just that for its students.

The Michigan school’s new Engineering Center uses trigeneration, chilled beams, and other systems in a hands-on learning environment honed to inspire and develop the next generation of creative engineers.

Students glean data from the mechanical and electrical systems, monitor the building’s performance, and suggest improvements. And, this works. The building saved 43% in energy cost over baseline in 2016.

Oakland University’s Engineering Center is a sustainable tool for making engineers. The $53 million, 134,200 ft2 (12 468 m2) engineering lab, classroom, and faculty office building boasts high-bay capstone labs and modular yet intensive labs for robotics, thermodynamics, computer science, and engine combustion. Other features include a Class 1000 cleanroom, a major machine shop, an auditorium and large classrooms assigned for broad use, and a rooftop energy lab for solar and wind experiments. The lobby acts as student demonstration space, a high-traffic bagel restaurant fosters interaction, and the design aesthetic is industrial—all working to put engineering on display.

Emulating the formative environments in which many of today’s most creative engineers and computer scientists thrived, the building hosts interdisciplinary learning with hands-on, team-based project spaces. Students and faculty of the School of Engineering and Computer Science have noted how the building feels like home—full of talking, tinkering, study spaces, and vitality at all hours of the day. The building systems are a partner in this learning environment, demonstrating thermodynamic principles and providing opportunities for research.

 

Energy Efficiency

The Engineering Center energy strategy is to use one natural gas input for three outputs—electric power, heating and cooling—and to maximize energy utility as it flows from higher to lower grades to the extent entropy practically allows.

In overview, normal and emergency electric power are at the top, high-temperature heating hot water is next, then building and domestic water heating. Chillers for summer cooling are midway down the energy range, next to a central heat pump that takes cooling heat rejection and pumps it back “up” to the heating hot water system. Rounding out the bottom are winter free-cooling heat exchangers and snow-melting. Two dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS) units and an active chilled beam system parlay the energy strategy from the mechanical penthouse to the building spaces.

In more detail, two nominal 200 kW, gas-fired, 33%-efficient turbogenerators are at the heart of the system, housed in a mechanical penthouse. Each unit compresses 2 psig (13.8 kPa) natural gas to 80 psig (552 kPa) for injection to its turbine, which generates 480 V, three-phase power and 535°F (279°C) exhaust. The latter is ducted together and run through two heat-recovery boilers in series. The first makes high-temperature water (350°F [177°C] winter, 265°F [129°C] summer) to serve the building and/or the campus as time-of-day and seasons dictate. The second uses the first boiler’s cooler exhaust to make 140°F [60°C] water for other heating loads. Each can bypass its incoming flue gas to modulate heating output. Indirectly, the turbogenerators also provide summer cooling by exporting high-temperature water to previously installed absorption chillers in other buildings on campus.

The mission-critical rated turbines take the place of a traditional emergency generator, operating on a continuous basis, with high reliability due to having only one main moving part, rotating on air bearings at 64,000 rpm.
 

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