May 20, 2021

Case Study: Westwood Hills Nature Center

Impact

Our engineering team helped St. Louis Park confidently build the first net-zero building in the city, leading to an award winning building for future users.

Project Background 

The City of St. Louis Park wanted to replace the existing Westwood Hills Nature Center with a new building featuring the most advanced systems to showcase the possibilities of focusing on sustainability and energy efficient design. This new building also had to be consistent with the center’s nature-focused mission. 

Center for Energy and Environment’s engineering team was selected to commission this building to make sure that the unique systems installed were operating properly and would meet the goals set to obtain the net-zero energy certification. Some of these systems included ground source heat pumps for air and water heating, in-floor radiant heating, energy recovery for the delivery of fresh air, and a 100 kW photovoltaic array on the roof to produce the energy the building needed.

Investigation 

The heat map below shows data from July through December 2020. A series of solar energy production changes are visible over the course of the year: a reduction in daylight hours across seasons, as can be observed by the narrowing of the yellow and red area on the graph; an early-season snowstorm that covered the array; and even the clock shift due to daylight savings time.

graph

Improvements

CEE’s full-service commission resulted in more detail on the control systems so that functional performance testing could be completed. Our engineers discovered that one of the meters used to measure energy consumption was not reading correctly. They then implemented a solution that resulted in accurate consumption data, which is critical for net-zero energy certification. In total, there were 61 issues discovered through the commissioning process. CEE used its issue-tracking software to notify contractors of problems, leading to quicker resolution and thus less energy waste.

 

Learn more about our Engineering for Efficiency Work

Case Summary

Problems

  • Highly integrated systems that needed to operate properly for the building to meet its goals

  • Full commissioning of all systems

  • Coordination of system set points — critical to avoid energy waste 

Solutions

  • CEE’s full-service commission resulted in more detail on the control systems so that functional performance testing could be completed.

  • Engineers implemented a meter solution that resulted in accurate consumption data needed for net-zero energy certification.

  • There were 61 issues discovered through the commissioning process.