By Scott Bates
From the June 2019 Issue
In Andover, MA, an academic facility founded in 1778 is home to a new student athletic facility designed to produce its own energy. At 98,800 square feet, Phillips Academy’s state-of-the-art Snyder Center holds a LEED (Leadership and Energy Environmental Design) Platinum designation. The LEED certification is an internationally recognized symbol of sustainability, requiring ingenuity to reach this level of achievement.
Stepping inside the Snyder Center, high ceilings and long windows draw in natural light. Here, the Phillips Academy student population can engage in a range of activities from yoga to strength training, and they have access to a 200-meter indoor track, four multi-use tennis and basketball courts, and a 12-court squash center, which includes a U.S. Squash rated tournament court. Additionally, there are spaces for students to study and gather when they are not training. The center was completed in 2018 by two Massachusetts firms, architect Perkins+Will of Boston and Burlington-based Erland Construction.
“Phillips Academy is committed to making their campus sustainable, setting the bar really high for this project and meeting their goal,” says Steve Craft, Erland Construction, who was the project executive for the Snyder Center.
The sustainable features that helped to lead the building to LEED Platinum include 1,778 solar panels installed on its roof and an innovative system that was engineered to heat and cool the facility year-round via the school’s adjacent ice rink.
A different heating and cooling supply. Saving an impact on the environment, waste heat is repurposed year-round from the school’s ice arena. The project team created a track of thermal piping within an existing underground utility corridor to connect the ice rink to the Snyder Center. The arena’s heat pump refrigeration system captures and transfers its own waste heat to then control the temperature inside the Snyder Center. The design team identified this strategy during an initial Athletics Master Plan.
This energy-saving design posed a challenge for the Erland project team. MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) resources had to be coordinated between the Snyder Center and ice arena within the existing underground utility corridor. Using this shared infrastructure, there was very limited space for the new mechanicals. The project team also needed to work around a landscaped rain garden that manages the water runoff and drainage for an existing football field. To find a solution, Erland’s in-house BIM (Building Information Modelling) coordination department created digital models that were methodically documented. The field staff used the models and systematically tested the pipes, which were heavily inspected, allowing the team to find space for new utilities without disturbing existing utilities.
“The waste heat from the ice making process is used to heat the new building, thus reducing the energy use of the Snyder Center by half,” says Tyler Hinckley, a senior associate with Perkins+Will. “Erland had to manage the replacement of the refrigeration system while the ice arena was in constant use and coordinate significant underground piping between two facilities through an already crowded utility corridor. The success of that effort was critical to the project achieving a net zero energy design.”
Powering with Solar. To install the 1,700-plus solar panel field on the roof of the Snyder Center, the project team worked with Solect Energy Development of Hopkinton, MA to structurally reinforce the roof before coordinating the power into the center. Permitting, inspections, and certifications can especially impact any building process, so it is essential for a project team to select the solar contractor early on during the initial stage of construction.
“If possible, bring the solar contractor on board right in the beginning and understand their needs,” says Sean Griffen, Erland Construction, who was the project manager for the Snyder Center. “Then as you’re designing MEPs, you can include solar provisions so you have enough conduits and raceways traveling throughout your building. Incorporating the solar contractor’s master schedule for the entire project can determine when items, like the roof, need to be in place to ensure deadlines are met.”
Up against the winter months and a deadline to install the solar field, Erland worked quickly alongside Solect Energy Development and Perkins+Will. Materials were moved around on weekends so that students were not disturbed. Once the solar panels were onsite, an electrical inspector needed to approve the panels, which were then certified by utility National Grid.
The solar panel installation process created several additional challenges. The building’s overhead mechanical and electrical systems needed to be installed and functioning prior to the installation of the solar panels on the roof. Early on, the project team determined only 50% of the building’s overhead space could be allotted for mechanical and electrical raceways—this was largely due to the overhead space requirements for the oversized roof drains, hot water lines that were fed in from the adjacent ice rink, and lack of architectural ceiling above the indoor track. The BIM model showed that there was extremely limited space to fit the massive systems required to properly condition this building. Had this not been identified upfront, the project could have been delayed.
“Our coordination department had the big picture lens of the building’s mechanical and electrical systems: it’s a major duct bank and infrastructure with high voltage wiring that weaves through an almost 100,000 square foot building,” says Griffen. “To make this work and prepare for the solar panels, we used our BIM model to take everything that was already in place, in terms of mechanical infrastructure, and weaved all 14 large conduits through the building to keep them concealed as much as possible.”
Today, the Snyder Center’s solar field is one main power source for the building and effectively reduces electricity costs.
Said Larry Muench, director of facilities, Phillips Academy, “Erland’s staff remained on site for the duration of the project. Working closely together, disruption to the students’ normal day-to-day activities was kept to a minimum through inventive logistics and circulation planning. The project team’s attention to detail and commitment to safety shone through and we could not be happier with our facility today.”
Bates is academic, corporate, commercial (ACC) group manager for Erland Construction in Burlington, MA. At Erland since 2011, he served as vice president of project development before his current role.
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