U.S. Air Force Academy – Center for Character & Leadership Development – MEP

Sustainability and integrated building systems were key goals for the design of the Center for Character & Leadership Development at the U.S. Air Force Academy. From displacement ventilation to radiant heating systems, the LEED®-NC Gold building employs a variety of cohesive mechanical systems to ensure user satisfaction, energy efficiency, and cost-effective operations.

The center's mechanical systems are integrated directly into the structure of the building—in the skylight in particular—rather than inserted as auxiliary systems. The skylight serves as a natural chimney, expelling hot air from automatic vents at the top. The insulated glazing and high performance coating of the skylight walls additionally reduce heat transfer, while strategically placed ceramic frits reduce glare. By affording the facility large amounts of daylight, the skylight reduces the need for artificial lighting. Overall, the skylight helps to reduce the building's energy cost by 37 percent from the baseline of ASHRAE 90.1-2004 compliance. Outside of the building, small gardens around the periphery lower the immediate temperature and regulate the thermal load on the facility’s facade.

The building's heating and cooling system employs thermally active slabs in traversed public spaces, such as lobbies and corridors, where hydronic systems regulate thermal radiation. Additional radiant ceiling panels are utilized in offices and classrooms where the HVAC system must respond faster to thermal change. Radiant systems lower energy consumption by reducing fan energy and allowing for warmer chilled water loop temperatures and cooler hot water loop temperatures.

With minimal moving parts to maintain, the entire facility can be operated remotely through a networked Building Management System that includes digital lighting controls, fire alarms, and other critical building systems. An IP network allows state facilities staff members to monitor the building offsite, thereby minimizing the need for onsite maintenance and additional facilities staff.