Kenny Corscadden 2016-06-29 04:34:06
The Department of Engineering at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture embarked on an innovative project, which became known as the TREEhouse, for “Technology for the Responsible use of Energy and the Environment.” The project represents an innovative approach to the management of academic infrastructure that combines research, experiential learning, and innovative design in the creation of sustainable graduate student office space. A 1960s split-level home located on the edge of campus was earmarked for demolition, as it was beyond economical repair. A proposal was pitched to the administration: restore the house for use as graduate office space, which was needed, and in the process provide students with practical experience. This project involved a number of faculty and staff in the planning, supervision, and implementation of the project, with innovative building materials provided by a variety of regional suppliers. The objective was that the TREEhouse would become a true faculty resource with applications in engineering and applied science (energy efficiency analysis, renewable energy, material performance, wood construction projects) and in plant and environmental science (green roof design, landscape architecture, flood mitigation strategies, and wastewater management). Due to the scale of the project, we decided to divide it into three phases. Phase one addressed the initial structural renovation or building envelope. It included complete updates of the windows, insulation, drywall, electrical, plumbing, flooring, and exterior siding. Phase two addressed additional building features, such as a pergola, management of waste and gray water (roof runoff and interior wastewater recycling), and landscape design. Phase three addressed the addition of renewable technologies to provide heating, cooling, and electricity to create a completely self-sufficient building. Phase one Demolition resulted in the house being completely gutted down to the original studs and wall sheathing. Green Power Labs of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, completed a solar efficiency survey, which indicated that installation of five large windows would take advantage of the south-facing orientation and predicted a 20% reduction in annual heating requirements. The redesign resulted in the interior being divided into three zones, and a system was installed to monitor the temperature, humidity, light levels, and energy use in each zone. Each zone used different lighting, wall thickness, and insulation. Insulation obtained from Acadian Drywall in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, which contained 70% recycled pop bottles and a combination of fillers, was compared to conventional fiberglass batts. The basement was insulated with spray foam. A 100% natural wood siding was chosen, provided by Marwood, a wood products company in Brookfield, Nova Scotia. The roofing shingles, obtained from Enviroshake Ontario, were produced from recycled tires and have a 50-year warranty. Phase two In phase two, the pergola was designed, constructed, and installed by two different wood construction classes, providing shade from the summer sun while still allowing passive solar gain in the winter. Landscape architecture classes surveyed and designed the landscaping around the house to minimize the impact of flooding from water runoff. Phase three In the final phase, a grid-connected solar PV array was installed, which feeds power back to the grid when consumption in the TREEhouse is below generation levels. A split ground source heat pump was also installed to provide heating and cooling. And today ... Although the TREEhouse looks very much like a normal house, the details tell another story. Many faculty, staff, and students participated in the construction process, which provided a unique hands-on learning experience with benefits that are continuing. The TREEhouse is a living laboratory, our graduate students have a newly renovated office building, and the pergola is a great hangout for barbecues in the summer. Several other classes are already looking at ways to integrate programs into the TREEhouse, and strong partnerships have been formed with many local companies. We hope that this project remains an interactive learning experience for years to come. ASABE member Kenny Corscadden, P.Eng., Associate Professor, Dalhousie University, Department of Engineering, Agricultural Campus, Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada, email@example.com. The TREEhouse team would like to acknowledge the late Dr. Bernie MacDonald, co-president of the former NSAC (now Faculty of Agriculture), for his receptiveness to the idea; Phil Talbot, former manager of facilities management; Green Power Labs; Marwood; Cape Cod Siding; Enviroshake; Acadian Drywall; Chris Nelson and Scott Read, Senior Instructors, and the many faculty and staff who participated. We had fun, we learned a lot, and we did something different! For a time-lapse video of the TREEhouse project, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtT2bvw8TRo
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