Teeple Architects' Langara College has Confusing Ventilation System


All photos by Shai Gil

I have always admired the work of Stephen Teeple and Teeple Architects, even if they rudely demolished the house I grew up in to replace it with this little pile. Their new Langara College Library in British Columbia has some interesting green features, and is a bit of a lesson about how we all better start agreeing on our terminology or we are going to confuse everyone.
Archidose quotes Joint Venture partners IBI Architects website and says that it has no heating or air conditioning; "The elimination of air conditioning, heating and typical ventilation systems, and their replacement with geothermal heating and cooling in combination with natural ventilation, leads to a highly energy efficient building. "

But this isn't quite true; there is air conditioning, if not exactly traditional. Teeple Architects write:

The building is ventilated entirely through this natural stack effect without the use of fans. Air is brought into the building underground, tempering its natural state. Temperature control is achieved through ground source heating and cooling, which adjusts the temperature of the building's concrete thermal mass.

The Langara Library website provides more detail:

Natural ventilation

* four wind towers pull air upward through the building
* undulating concrete roof increases pulling power of wind towers by increasing wind velocity
* sensor-controlled windows bring air into the building Heating and cooling

Heating and Cooling

* overall design is based on heat sink principles and features a geothermal loop formed by 78 bore holes drilled to a depth of 250 feet
* waste heat is captured from exhaust air
* the building's exposed cast-in-place concrete and high-performance glass aid in energy transfer and storage

Energy Efficiency

* natural ventilation and heating/cooling design eliminate the need for conventional air conditioning
* building is expected to be 71% more energy-efficient than the baseline established in Canada's National Energy Code for Buildings Water efficiency

The Mechanical Engineers, Cobalt Engineering LLP, give the clearest explanation.

Some of the key sustainable features include wind-driven natural ventilation and an optimized building envelope. Thermal mass, building shape, and orientation were used to create an aerodynamic building equipped with wind towers.

Significant energy savings was derived from tempering supply air by using an earth-tempered system combined with an earth-source energy heat-pump. Radiant heating and cooling was incorporated to further minimize energy consumption. An underfloor displacement ventilation system will further contribute to energy savings, while delivering 100% fresh outdoor air to improve the overall indoor environmental quality.


So forgive me for using this particular lovely building as a platform for a rant, but we have three different consultants and a client describing their mechanical system variously as:

-The elimination of air conditioning, heating and typical ventilation systems, and their replacement with geothermal heating and cooling;
-Temperature control is achieved through ground source heating and cooling;
-Design is based on heat sink principles and features a geothermal loop;
-an earth-tempered system combined with an earth-source energy heat-pump.

They missed geoexchange, but got everything else. I think it demonstrates that if we are going to convince the public about the benefits of innovative and green design, we had better come up with some comprehensible descriptions and standard terminology, especially in parts of the world like BC and California where they really can and do use geothermal heat.

More on Heat Pumps and Geothermal heating in TreeHugger

Jargon Watch: Geothermal vs Ground Source Heat Pump
Jargon Watch: GeoExchange
Geothermal Energy: Renewables' Poor Cousin
12,100 Megawatts of Geothermal Power by 2025: Department of Interior Opens Up Lands For Leasing

Tags: Heating

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