The Innovation Is In The Details

Spectrum Tours Stanford University's New Environment & Energy Building

Photo: Tekla S. Perry

Inside, however, the Y2E2 building is filled with innovations that save energy and water and make life inside more pleasant. This atrium, one of four in the building, brings daylight all the way down to the basement, which saves on electricity for lighting. The atrium is not air-conditioned, acting instead as a chimney for natural cooling. The louvers at the top open automatically on summer nights, letting cold air in.

To read more about Spectrum's tour of the Y2E2 building, see "Color Stanford's Y2E2 building green" on the Tech Talk blog.

Photo: Tekla S. Perry

From the outside, the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment & Energy Building (Y2E2) looks very much like the other buildings on campus, albeit with a slightly sleeker, more modern look. This arcade echoes those in Stanford University’s main quadrant.

Photo: Tekla S. Perry

The concrete floor, made not with cement but with fly ash, a by-product of coal burning, cools down on summer nights and chills the building during the day. Some offices facing south and west do have additional cooling capacity; for these, cold water is pumped along beams in the ceiling. Hot water for heating comes from the university’s power plant.

Photo: Tekla S. Perry

Getting fire marshals to approve an atrium that runs all the way to a laboratory-filled basement wasn’t an easy task, says civil and environmental engineering professor Richard Luthy; the marshals feared that a chemical fire would send smoke pouring through the building. The solution? A horizontal metal gate (you can see the tracks in this photo) that shuts when the fire alarm is pulled.

Photo: Tekla S. Perry

Most of the furniture in the Y2E2 building, including desks, bookshelves, and cafeteria and conference tables, is made of recycled particleboard covered with a bamboo veneer.

Photo: Tekla S. Perry

Every south-facing window is covered with a light shelf outside and inside. The outside shelf shades the offices from direct sunlight in the summer, while the reflective top surface sends indirect light to office ceilings.

Photo: Tekla S. Perry

Inside a typical office, the light shelf redirects incoming sunlight and prevents glare. Offices do have efficient fluorescent lights, but the odds are that they’ll get little daytime use.

Photo: Tekla S. Perry

While a building management system controls many of the windows to allow for nighttime cooling, at least one window in every office opens manually, and offices have their own thermostats. Luthy [pictured] says surveys have shown that people are much more tolerant of heat or cold when they have control over their environment, and he expects that giving people this flexibility will save energy.

Photo: Tekla S. Perry

Outside the offices, translucent polycarbonate panels let light pass into hallways. Luthy would have preferred clear glass, but the price tag was too high. At first, he says, some people questioned the aesthetics of polycarbonate, but they liked it better when they heard that the alternative was standard wallboard.

Photo: Tekla S. Perry

Toilets throughout the building flush using water collected from blowdown, a cleaning process used in the university’s evaporative cooling towers at the cogeneration facility, located about 250 meters away.

Photo: Tekla S. Perry

Channels around the building collect rainwater. When the engineering quad is complete, it should be able to collect enough water for all its irrigation needs.

Photo: Tekla S. Perry

Located on a portion of the south-facing tile roof, three sets of solar panels are a test bed for demonstration and education. Each set comes from a different manufacturer, with different price points and efficiency ratings. Monitoring their operation will let building occupants and engineers determine how to get the best bang for their buck when they buy more panels. Right now, these panels generate about 2 percent of the electricity used in the building; eventually, Luthy says, when the south-facing part of the roof is filled with solar panels, it may generate 10 percent or more.

To read more about Spectrum's tour of the Y2E2 building, see "Color Stanford's Y2E2 building green" on the Tech Talk blog.

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