Smart Building Tech Aids Net Zero School

Not long ago, we reported on what is slated to be the nation’s largest net zero junior high school: the 150,000 square foot Lady Bird Johnson Middle School in Irving, Texas, slated to open in the fall of 2011. As construction gets under way, much of the facility’s energy-efficient profile will be handled by a company called Convia which, according to a recent news release, will be providing technology that integrates the school’s control of lighting, plug loads and HVAC/thermostat set points.

This technology will play a sizable role in helping the middle school achieve its projected net zero status, despite its size, as lighting and HVAC can account for as much as 93% of the total energy used within a building. By using an integrated smart building system, the school expects to consume roughly 50 percent less energy than other schools of a comparable size.

Lady Bird Johnson Middle School

image via Irving ISD

Some key components of the Convia system for the Lady Bird Johnson Middle School will be occupancy sensors located throughout the school, automatic light dimming based on the time of day and the level of natural daylight available and low priority lighting zones that will be dimmed or shut down automatically when power consumption in the building reaches a predetermined level. This will ensure power consumed balances the power generated by renewable energy sources; wall switches will enable users to override automatic dimming.

Convia will also be providing a Energy Track Reporting Tool that will allow building managers to track the energy used within individual zones (such as an individual classroom) or circuit level. The Energy Track Tool displays actual energy usage in real time on a simple dashboard interface, reporting on data collected on chips integrated into the Convia-enabled control components throughout the school.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.