Millersville U Builds Net Energy Welcome Ctr.

| March 1, 2019

Lombardo Welcome Center

by  Mary Acciani

Millersville, PA – The recently opened Lombardo Welcome Center at Millersville University was designed by AKF Group to be the first net-zero building on campus and is part of the university’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2040. Utilizing a combination of strategies, the building is expected to use less energy over a year than it produces through renewable sources.

To obtain Zero Energy Certification through the Living Future Institute, the building must supply 100% of its energy needs on a net annual basis by onsite renewable energy. No combustion is permitted to be used. An online dashboard, available for all to view, tracks energy production and usage continuously providing data on how the building is performing. So far, it’s been performing very well.

Display panels showing energy dashboard and university news

Energy modeling was done early on to help guide decisions about the type of HVAC system to be used, the percentage of glazing, and the effective amounts of insulation for the roof, walls, and under slab. Triple pane windows and high R value roof and make the building’s envelope efficient.

Lighting and HVAC account for the largest consumption of energy in buildings like this one, so minimizing their energy needs was essential. Geothermal coupled water source heat pumps were provided and have the benefit of excellent energy efficiency without the need for combustion. A dedicated outside air system with energy recovery provides ventilation air pretreated using energy from air being exhausted.

Comfortable, efficient, heating in the lobby is provided by radiant piping in the floors. Lighting throughout the building is provided by energy-efficient LED fixtures with controls and occupancy sensors making sure it is used efficiently. A daylight dimming system dims the lights when ample daylight is available.

The Living Future Institute Zero Energy Certification requires that the building not use combustion as an energy source, essentially limiting the source for heating to electricity.

As a result, the most efficient heating and cooling system was shown by the energy model to be a geothermal system with water source heat pumps. The Lombardo Welcome Center is served by a geothermal well field consisting of 20 closed-loop vertical wells, each approximately 400 feet deep, located in the rear of the building.

The well field serves 23 heat pumps to allow occupants to adjust the temperature locally and allow the system to shut down heat pumps in unoccupied areas.

The restriction on combustion also meant that an emergency generator could not be provided so a centralized battery system supplies emergency power.

After minimizing the building’s energy use, the next step in creating a net zero building was to provide a renewable source of electricity generation onsite.  

Energy modeling was used to determine the amount of electricity generation needed to exceed the energy use of the building based on occupancy schedules and assumptions about occupant behavior.

Ground-mounted solar array and integrated PV glass

Solar photovoltaic panels cover most of the Lombardo Welcome Center roof. Additional solar panels are installed in a ground-mounted array which has a dual-axis tracker allowing it to follow the sun over the course of the day.

Its location on the ground also makes it perfect as a learning tool. Building-integrated PV glass windows were used on the south-facing wall of the building to add to the electrical generation capacity while showcasing other available photovoltaic technology. They create an aesthetically pleasing band above and below the vision glass.



Mary Acciani, PE, CEM is a senior project manager at AKF Group.

Mary Acciani

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Category: All, Education

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