The Suwannee River Administration Building
is designed for passive solar heating and cooling. Key
• building layout and orientation;
• location, placement, number, and operability of windows;
• high ceilings and deep wrap-around porches
• highly reflective white standing seam metal roof cladding.
These all work to capture the most sun in the winter, and provide the
most shading and natural ventilation in the summer.
2.The HVAC system – Building a high-performance structure allows
you to really fine tune or “right-size” your space heating
and cooling unit, your fresh-air ventilation, and the ducts that deliver
all three. Essential elements to the Administration Building include a
variable-speed ECM air handler, a two-stage 12–13 SEER/~8.5 HSPF
heat pump unit, and a scheduled intermittent outside air ventilation
system that also provides mixing of all interior air. Mechanical
ventilation, you say? You can’t build this tight and not purposefully
introduce the outside air you need. A direct-vent gas fireplace is installed
as a supplemental heat source.
3.Water heating – After your HVAC system, water heating makes up
the largest single energy demand in the building. Solar water heating
(described below) is an essential part of any zero energy
strategy, but you always need a back-up. While there are several
options to consider—combo systems (combining water and space heating),
heat pump water heaters, instantaneous systems—the Suwannee River
Administration Building simply has the top-of-the-line electric tank water
heater. Given the fact that solar hot water will be available much of
the year in this climate, it was the most reasonable water heating solution.
4.Lighting and appliances – Once the energy performance of the structure,
the HVAC, and water heating have been optimized, “plug loads”
become the next target for significant energy improvements.
It begins with the big boys—the refrigerator and lighting—and
reaches down to the dishwasher, dryer, and household items such as the
television and microwave. The higher performance of many of these items
also reduces air conditioning needs in climates with any cooling period.
The Photovoltaic System
To turn sunlight into usable electricity requires:
• panels - to collect the solar energy and convert it into direct
current (DC) electricity.
• an inverter - to convert the DC into alternating current (AC),
matching your building’s conventional electrical system.
• a controller – to manage where the solar and grid-supplied
power go, to or from your home or office and the grid.
Over the past few years, each of these components has been rapidly evolving
and improving so that today they are compatible, code-compliant, and cost-effective.
Lots of work has been done to bring the efficiency of the panels up and
their cost down, and to link the panels into system packages so that you
don’t have to build the system. And in many states (and maybe the
whole country with residential energy efficiency legislation pending in
Congress), rebates and tax incentives exist to subsidize solar equipment