Photo: © Bruce Damonte
The University of South Carolina’s new Darla Moore School of Business, which is slated to achieve LEED Platinum designation from the U.S. Green Building Council, is anticipated to become the first net-zero energy higher education facility of its kind in the Southeastern U.S., capable of generating as much energy as it consumes through the design of advanced technologies. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected the university to partner with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as part of the agency’s Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative. The program, designed to help the DOE achieve a goal of providing marketable net-zero energy commercial buildings by 2025, served as a key project focus for Stevens & Wilkinson, engineer of record for the project, and partner-firm Rafael Viñoly Architects (RVA), architect of record.
“Our team implemented smart design solutions that make the new Darla Moore School of Business a highly sustainable, functional, and visually dynamic facility for the university’s students and faculty,” said Keith Branham, P.E., LEED AP, senior vice president, director of engineering for Stevens & Wilkinson, S.C., who served as lead for the project. “We are thrilled because we know each of the methods and technologies developed during the design of this building will guide efforts for all new facilities located or associated with the University of South Carolina moving forward.”
From the beginning of the project, the civil and structural engineering departments of Stevens & Wilkinson faced several challenges.
From the site’s northeastern corner at Assembly and Greene Streets to the building’s southwestern corner at Park Street, the elevation drop is about 57 feet. In addition, there had to be design considerations for the proximity of the proposed building to existing roadways with various utilities, to the existing retaining wall along Assembly Street, as well as to a 40-year-old Carolina Coliseum facility. The design considerations influenced important aspects of the project, such as egress routes, stormwater collection, locations and routes of utilities, and the construction of necessary retaining walls.
Improving building efficiency
Photo: © Bruce Damonte
With dedicated outdoor air systems designed to provide users with pristine fresh air, the building’s new HVAC systems are engineered with under-floor air, active chilled beams, and variable air volume systems, all designed to reduce the amount of horsepower needed to move air for heating and cooling. In addition, a separate HVAC system was incorporated for use of the building’s 500-seat lecture and performance hall in order to achieve quiet air conditioning without impacting the room’s acoustics. The firm coordinated with an acoustics consultant to generate desired reverberation characteristics, an endeavor that closely entailed monitoring duct velocities, thereby increasing the duct size to ensure a quieter environment.
Designed with the goal of furthering the school’s mission of providing students with a top-tier education, one that welcomes collaboration, encourages excellence, and incites creativity, the new Darla Moore School of Business features a number of sustainable design elements, including the use of green turf for heat reduction, reusable waste management systems, a state-of-the-art hybrid HVAC system, and natural daylighting. Rainwater harvesting for irrigation and building toilet use also contributes to the building’s overall water-use reduction of more than 50 percent.
From an electrical standpoint, systems were efficiently distributed from the main switchgear by way of two vertical power feeders to equipment located on each of the building’s six levels. An emergency power system was developed to service life-safety loads and other legally required emergency equipment in the event of a power outage.
Photo: © Bruce Damonte
An energy monitoring system was also designed and implemented to measure the amount of energy used by the building and was created specifically for systems and components that include interior and exterior lighting, heating and cooling, fan motors, elevators, kitchen equipment, and building-plug loads.
Branham said all successful outcomes, when taking into consideration the preliminary information, yielded directly from the system. “Given our region’s hot, and at times, humid climate, our team’s efforts will help curb the amount of energy needed to effectively heat and cool a building of this size and magnitude.”
The net result of the building’s blended sustainable design features an optimized energy performance of 43 percent, a percentage that is much higher than the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ (ASHRAE) 90.1 standards.
Civil and structural design considerations
Given the site’s dramatic elevation changes, the team specifically implemented solutions to maximize the facility’s operational flexibility by incorporating building entries on multiple levels. Furthermore, civil engineering design services ensured proper stormwater management for flood prevention, site utilities, and government agency approvals.
Accelerated site and structural design packages were also issued to meet the rigorous planning schedule and expedited start date of construction. Complexities included transfer columns to achieve the desired structural design, resulting in flexibility for a planted roof and potential future pavilions. Outboard columns required special consideration for bracing, while site soils required attention and monitoring to limit settlement impacts.
Photo: © Firewater Photography
The architect and the University of South Carolina chose the location of the building at the southwestern corner of Assembly and Greene Streets because it is a heavily traveled corridor, but the site presented challenges. Early in the project, finished floor elevations and locations of egress had to be established and coordinated with respect to the surrounding existing grade. Handicap accessible vehicle drop-off areas along Park Street and Greene Street had to be carefully located and planned due to the roads’ steep grades — 7 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
The dramatic elevation change between Assembly Street and Park Street also prompted the use of retaining walls. However, due to the proposed building’s close proximity to each road, large wall foundations could not be utilized. Instead, soil-nail and shotcrete walls were utilized to minimize the impact to each road and its underlying utilities. These walls were installed early in order to facilitate construction of structural foundations.
Of course, whenever retaining walls are required, part of the civil engineering planning process is analyzing how stormwater will be collected at the top and routed away to prevent it from overtopping the walls. A combination of stormwater swales and drop inlets were constructed along the top of the walls. Storm drainage lines were constructed to route the stormwater around the building and tied-in to an existing junction box at Park Street. Stormwater collected by trench drains in the plaza area (adjacent to the Carolina Coliseum) and other drop inlets in landscape areas is also tied into the lines.
Photo: © Firewater Photography
Another goal during the planning process was to utilize the building’s roof drainage runoff for landscape irrigation and water reuse inside the building. Storm drainage lines collect the roof drainage and route it to an underground rainwater harvesting system consisting of filters, a bypass system, and underground storage tank. During droughts, and once the water level inside the tank drops to a designated level, transfer pumps for landscape irrigation supply and interior water reuse turn off. The system will switch over to city supply for landscape irrigation, and the interior water reuse reservoir tank will be backfilled by city supply as well.
The structural design focused on materials efficiency as related to the conceptual architectural design and spaces, which required numerous transfer columns and girders. Three-inch composite deck with a 3.25-inch semi-lightweight concrete cover allowed for fire ratings to be achieved without supplemental fireproofing. Further, it managed vibration behavior, allowing for a reduction of members in each floor plate to expedite construction and permitting a more comfortable learning environment.
The design allows for significant future flexibility to meet the needs of new technology and teaching concepts. Also providing multiple benefits are the concrete shear walls surrounding the egress stairs and elevators. While providing the necessary structural support of the building, the walls also support and provide fire protection of the stairs and elevators.
“The Stevens & Wilkinson team provided exceptional and professional support throughout our project and often were the main supporters of our vision when challenges arose,” said Debbie H. Brumbaugh, chief financial officer and director of administrative services, Darla Moore School of Business, office of the dean. “Their team seemed to always remain focused on our specifications, expectations, and the intended design plan. They could be relied upon to explore and solve complicated challenges in ways that were efficient and favorable for our school.”
With the new school year in full swing, students are enjoying their studies with outdoor views, skylights, and natural lighting elements designed to enhance productivity and reduce sick days. In turn, faculty and staff work across multiple rooms equipped with advanced distance learning and collaboration technology, giving rise to the next generation of business leaders.
Information provided by Stevens & Wilkinson (www.stevens-wilkinson.com), a full-service architecture, engineering, and interior design firm founded in 1919 with offices in Atlanta and Columbia, S.C.