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Ecolibrium Magazine Cover Story, Featuring the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach

Ecolibrium Magazine Cover Story, Featuring the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach

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Published by LPAinc
The Environmental Nature Center (ENC) in Newport Beach, California, blends simple, passive, fundamentally sound strategies, such as understanding and responding to climatic conditions, with some high-tech kit, writes Matthew Dillon.

Ecolibrium is the official journal of the Australian Institue of Refrigeration, Airconditioning and Heating (AIRAH). It is read by more than 10,000 professionals in the HVAC&R industry every month, and features the latest industry news, case studies on major projects, technical papers, information on the latest professional development opportunities available to industry and more.
The Environmental Nature Center (ENC) in Newport Beach, California, blends simple, passive, fundamentally sound strategies, such as understanding and responding to climatic conditions, with some high-tech kit, writes Matthew Dillon.

Ecolibrium is the official journal of the Australian Institue of Refrigeration, Airconditioning and Heating (AIRAH). It is read by more than 10,000 professionals in the HVAC&R industry every month, and features the latest industry news, case studies on major projects, technical papers, information on the latest professional development opportunities available to industry and more.

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Published by: LPAinc on Dec 13, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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The natural
The Environmental Nature Center (ENC) in Newport Beach, California, blends simple, passive,fundamentally sound strategies, such as understanding and responding to climatic conditions,with some high-tech kit, writes
Matthew Dillon
.
One o the sustainability principlesthat underpins the activities o LPA,a Caliornia-based design frm thatspecialises in green buildings,is to “do less”.That might sound somewhatcounterintuitive when you’re talkingabout high-perorming buildings, whichare oten loaded with a ormidable array o cutting-edge equipment and materials.Which, o course, is perectly fne, andthe industry needs exemplar buildingsto show the way orward, to demonstratewhat’s possible and to test boundaries.Yet according to Dan Heineld,LPA’s president, “doing less” is animportant concept because many o the best practices or sustainability have nothing to do with earning pointson a rating scorecard.He says the Environmental Nature Center(ENC) in Newport Beach Caliornia is acase in point o this design approach.“Doing less … saves money by fndingand using what is ree – or what we liketo call the ‘gits o the site’,” Heineldexplains. “We oten use the sun toprovide solar energy and interiordaylighting, and incorporate existinglandscapes into the overall scheme.Thoughtul building orientation canmaximise the use o prevailing breezesto support natural ventilation. Each andevery one o these techniques is appliedat the Environmental Nature Center.
Net-ze dngseqe ette enegydeng than entts avaae
The ENC is a small (836 sq m) envelope-load-dominated building that relies onnatural ventilation to stay comortablein its mild coastal location. Openablewindows and venting systems allowocean breezes to permeate the building.Rated LEED Platinum (the equivalento 6 star Green star) the ENC is net-zeroenergy, meaning it produces as muchenergy as it consumes. A grid-connectedphotovoltaic system on the roo more thano-sets the building’s modest energy use.The insulation used in the building ismade rom recycled blue jeans, just oneexample o second-hand materials usedthroughout the project.Boasting 15 ecological exhibits, the ENChosts a rat o natural science and socialscience education programs or students,amilies and the community.Heineld, however, also hopes visitorsgain a more complete understanding o sustainable design.Says Heineld: “Everything about thebuilding and learning centre is shaped by sustainability and efciency.”
The ENC produces as much energy as it consumes.
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Prevailing breezes are able to enter the building through a series of openable windows.
Ecolibrium: The Environmental NatureCenter uses the “site gifts” – that is,it takes advantage of the coastal windson Newport Beach and doesn’t requireHVAC equipment. Did you do modellingon this – how did you know you wouldbe able to naturally ventilate the spacewithout compromising comfort forthe centre’s visitors?Dan Heinfeld:
Yes, we did do modellingto understand the temperature variationthat the ENC would experience usingonly natural ventilation or the space.Given the site location and mostimportantly, the client, who was willingto accept a much greater range o temperature control in their space thatour typical clients, we eliminated allHVAC equipment.What we typically do is a “mixed mode”system, where HVAC equipment andnatural ventilation work together increating healthy indoor environmentsand energy savings. The idea is that whenthe climate allows, operable windowsare opened and a control located in thewindow tells the HVAC equipment thatthe window is open and turns o thesystem. We believe there are so many benefts o allowing users the opportunity to “open” their buildings, and we wouldbe doing it even without the obviousbeneft o energy savings.
Eco: “This building could have onlyhappened at this site, and thatmakes it beautiful and timeless.”What did you mean by this– whycouldn’t the building happensomewhere else?DH:
Our design process starts with athorough understanding o the site andlocal conditions, prevailing breezes, thesun pattern, rainall, climate conditions,etc. Once we do that we see what passivesystems can be used on the site frst andthose passive systems shape the buildingand our response to architectural orm.So the unique conditions on this siteshaped the building design and thereoremake it o its place and beautiul. Webelieve that by solving problems and notchasing ashion we will create projectsthat are beautiul and timeless.
Eco: How does the cooling systemwork? How does the air circulate?DH:
The prevailing breezes which comeo the ocean are allowed to enter thebuilding through a series o operablewindows. The windows are sizeddierently to allow the ENC to “tune”the space to ft the local conditions, wherethe amount o air can be adjusted by opening and closing windows. The coolair enters into the space and naturally rises as it warms and is vented out o thespace. This natural displacement o theair circulates the air through the buildingsection.
Eco: What about heating? Is thatrequired in California’s winters?DH:
The building is actually a netenergy producer, and small electricheaters are used during only the coolestwinter months by the sta or heating.The sta areas with the lower ceilingare the only areas where the heaters areused. The classroom building with theshaped roo and higher volume is muchbetter at controlling the temperatureswithin the space.
Eco: Why do blue jeans make goodmaterial for insulation? Has theconcept been around for a while?DH:
Yes it has, and one o the beneftswe didn’t think about originally wasduring the insulation’s installation.During the installation the installerswere not wearing masks and gloves, asthey do with a typical insulation project:not only were we using a highly recycledmaterial or our insulation we wereproviding a better work environmentduring construction. Bo Glover, the ENCdirector, told me that was the day whenhe knew we were really doing somethingspecial at the ENC.
 
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