Designed by Sasaki Associates, the 50,000 sq.ft John J. Sbrega Health and Science Building at Bristol Community College in Fall River, Massachusetts, is the first net-zero energy academic science building in the Northeast. Intended to be a high performance facility, the project team has pushed the boundaries of energy efficiency to become a net-zero energy (NZE) building. A key question asked by the project team was how can a building achieve net-zero target for an energy-dense program in a cold climate?

The approach taken was a holistic mix of passive and active strategies. Ultimately, the energy efficiency components incorporated in the building reduce the energy consumption by 80% compared to the baseline. Passive features include a Wall-to-Window-Ratio (WWR) ratio of 22%, cooling through natural ventilation and openable windows, optimum orientation to maximize daylight and reduce heat gain, adequate shading systems to cut out glaze and inclusion of a high performance envelope to reduce air leakage and thermal bridging. Active features include reduction of the lighting power density to 0.58 W/sq.ft, dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS), ground source heat pumps etc. To meet the energy requirements, the site plan includes a 3.2 MW solar PV array.

Through these strategies the building has pioneered the concept of pushing the limits of sustainable design while maintaining an occupant-friendly teaching environment.

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