Flow Tech & Aircuity Help Bristol Community College Achieve Zero Net Energy


Bristol Community College (BCC) offers associates degrees and certificates in over 150 programs through its main campus in Fall River, MA and several satellite locations. With its growing number of students, BCC commissioned architect and engineering firms Sasaki Associates, Bard, Rao + Athanas Consulting Engineers (BR+A), and Haley & Aldrich to design the 50,000 sqft John J. Sbrega Health and Science Building based on standard high performance building design. A design was created to meet the state requirement of LEED® Silver Plus , which includes a minimum of 20% energy cost reduction compared to the ASHRAE 90.1-2007 baseline.


Bristol Community College

Bristol Community College Rendering. Photo Credit: Sasaki


The project was put on hold awaiting funding and in the meantime BCC increased commitment to their American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 by initiating a site-based solar array. This commitment presented an opportunity for BR+A and Sasaki to reassess the “high performance design” and develop a zero net energy (ZNE) design instead. With the large amount of lab and other energy intensive space, the firms needed to not only reduce energy and eliminate the reliance of fossil fuels, but in order for the design to be truly successful, the space needed to be a safe and healthy environment for students and staff as well.

The Solution

The firms collaborated to create a ZNE design. One of the larger contributors to achieving net zero energy included a hybrid ground-source and air-source heat pump to avoid fossil fuels. Equally as important to the design was airside optimization to address the HVAC energy use – which typically accounts for 50-70% of the total energy consumption in a lab building. Optimizing the HVAC energy use in the building included designing in filter fume hoods, fan coils, enthalpy wheels and Aircuity.

Flow Tech provided Bristol Community College with Aircuity’s solution to help achieve zero net energy while enhancing safety in the lab.

Triple Play

We introduced Aircuity to the design and produced a trifold of benefits. First, Aircuity allowed for a reduction in the baseline air change rates from 6 ACH to 4 ACH during occupied times and 2 ACH during times when the space is typically unoccupied. Next, optimizing the amount of fresh air ventilation in the labs along with filtered fume hoods & fan coil units meant the air handler and ductwork could be sized for minimum air change rates, resulting in first cost savings. As a third benefit, including Aircuity in the design enhanced the environment for both students and staff and added an extra sense of safety to the space. When an event is sensed, such as a spill, ventilation rates are automatically increased until the air is determined to be clean once again. Data on the indoor environmental quality of the space is accessible through Aircuity and can be tracked and measured as another way to oversee what is going on in the space.

ZNE Model: A Win on all Fronts

Overall the ZNE design beat the original high performance design on all sides. It not only eliminated fossil fuel consumption, but it comparatively reduced overall energy consumption by a predicted 70%. The reconciled construction budget of the ZNE design resulted in a slight increase in cost. This increase was more than covered by the utility incentives and a Pathways to Zero Grant from the MA DOER. As shown in the chart below, the net life cycle cost savings of the building and power purchase agreement are estimated to be over $4 million. “The silver lining is that the combined operating savings of $230,000 per year is roughly equivalent to the annual tuition of 50 students at BCC,” said Jacob Knowles, Director of Sustainability Design at BR+A.


Savings and cost of ZNE

Savings & Cost of Zero Net Energy


The outstanding results have earned attention and accolades. The project received the three following awards and recognitions in 2014: MA DOER Leading by Example Award, ASHRAE Region 1
Award for Engineering Excellence and Community College Futures Assembly Bellwether Award Finalist 2014. In 2015 the project earned a National Association of College and University Business Officers Innovation Award. This demonstrates that with the right design, ZNE is achievable and the better choice based on energy use, project cost and the indoor environment.

About Bristol Community College

As the leading resource for education and workforce development in southeastern Massachusetts, Bristol Community College provides programs that promote individual opportunity and the
region’s economic health. The College has an undergraduate population of 12,514 (unduplicated headcount of credit students for 2013-14) and 19,256 in noncredit enrollments. Bristol Community
College changes the world by changing lives, learner by learner.

About Aircuity

Aircuity is the smart airside efficiency company providing building owners with sustained energy savings through its intelligent measurement solutions. By combining real-time sensing and continuous analysis of indoor environments, the company has helped commercial, institutional and lab building owners lower operating costs, improve safety and become more energy efficient.

Want to know more about how Flow Tech can provide your facility safe, smart, energy-efficient airside solutions? Contact us today, or visit our website for more information. Like this post? Don’t forget to share it, follow us on Twitter and connect with us on LinkedIn and Google+!

Nichole Petersen

Director of Marketing at Flow Tech, Inc.
Nichole joined Flow Tech in 2013 as Director of Marketing. She leads our marketing communication initiatives including content marketing development, coordinating events and training, maintaining our digital presence and recruiting, as well as, some business development and office support. Nichole resides in Vernon with her husband Brian and son Roman. She enjoys hosting parties, cooking and lounging on the beach.
Nichole Petersen

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