Engineering a building

A Nintendo Wii, a plasma TV and exposed piping: These are but a few things students in the new College of Engineering and Computer Science will have priority access to in November.

It will be the first academic building in the state to be certified platinum by the Leadership in Environmental Energy and Design program — a national program that rates buildings on their energy consumption and environmental impact. It is the highest level of certification that LEED awards.

In addition, the building features wall-mounted panels outside the main systems room that, according to the building’s architect, Robert Thomas, allow students to see what each piece of energy-related equipment is, what it does, and what its condition is.

“This really is a teaching space for the students,” Thomas said.

Junior computer science major Jason Immerblum agrees.

“The most interesting parts of the new building are the engineering displays because they allow everyone to see advanced technologies in action.”

According to FAU project manager E. Henry Kraft, the new building will use half the electricity of an “average” FAU building like the S.E. Wimberly Library or the Indian River Towers building. It saves energy through many means including harnessing solar energy, using rainwater to water greenery, and making sure sunlight can penetrate most of the building instead of keeping the lights on.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony is on Nov. 5, and classes will be held inside the building beginning in spring 2011, according to Karl Stevens, dean of the college.

Student space, cubed

The student area in the front of the building, known as the Cube, will feature computers for students to use, private suites for teams of students to reserve, a Wii, and a plasma TV.

“They wanted a ping-pong table and we said, ‘Nah, I don’t think so.’ We’ll give them a Wii,” said Stevens.

In addition, students can enjoy a dance floor, which was requested by Dean Karl Stevens.

“I wanted a building that we could have fun in as well as we could work hard,” said Stevens on the origins of the idea of a dance floor, which came about due to requests from students to get married on campus.

“Students come here and they meet somebody and they’d like to get married here on campus. And there’s really no place to hold a function like that. They will be able to do that in that new building.”

Students who look up at the ceiling will also notice piping that was left intentionally exposed. According to project manager E. Henry Kraft, the pipes are color-coded so that students will know what is flowing through each pipe.

On the floor beneath, there is a food service area with space for any students’ bands that may want to play or practice, said Stevens.

Why it’s the greenest on campus

These measures not only helped the building achieve platinum certification in the LEED program, but also help the building cut electricity consumption to half that of an “average” building on campus, like the S.E. Wimberly Library:

– Most places in the building can be illuminated by sunlight. In order to achieve this, the building uses windows where other buildings use walls. During a sunny day, most places can be adequately illuminated without turning on a light.

– The window glass does not let heat into the building. This saves on air conditioning costs.

– The building has a rooftop garden, which is watered not by fresh water, but by recycled air-conditioner drippings. The drippings are collected and then pumped into the sprinklers.

– Water is heated by the sun, rather than by gas or electricity.

– The building features solar panels, so it gets a portion of its energy from the sun. People in the building will be able to monitor the conditions of the solar panels on 75-inch monitors mounted on walls. Four percent of electricity provided to the building will be from the sun.

– Rooms are cooled not through displacing hot air with cold air using a central air conditioner, but through cold water in pipes running throughout the building, saving on cooling costs.

– Even the elevators have been designed to save electricity. As an elevator goes down, the electric motor becomes a generator, recharging the elevator.

[Sources: FAU project manager E. Henry Kraft; Leo A Daly Principal of Science and Technology Robert J. Thomas]