Texas university builds training ground for 'green-collar' workers

New lab will be dedicated to research and training in emerging technologies that could help building management systems move toward net-zero impact.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

What defines the role of "green-collar" worker? For the University of North Texas (UNT) it is skills with sustainable energy technologies, so that is the focus of a new campus facility dedicated to to research and training in this area.

The Zero Energy Research Laboratory (pictured to the right) is slated to become part of the university's 300-acre research campus. It will focus on emerging technologies that enable building systems to operate in a net-zero state when it comes to energy consumption. Construction on the 1,200-square-foot structure is scheduled to begin in July, with a target completion date of early 2012. It will be initially powered by solar technologies; expansion plans call for the addition of wind and other renewable energy sources in the future.

UNT already has a degree program in mechanical and energy engineering, started back in 2006. Right now, there are approximately 290 students enrolled. Those students and their faculty will use this new laboratory for testing current and future technologies such as integrated solar panels, structure-integrated insulation, energy-efficient windows, energy storage, energy monitoring applications for the smart grid, and so on.

The project is being funded by a $1.15 million from a diversity of sources, including HEAF (higher education assistance funds), along with donations from the following companies: Schneider Electric, Acme Brick, Axium Solar, Benchmark Precision Buildings and Nuconsteel. The architect of record is Jacobs Engineering Group and the facility will be built by Nouveau Construction.

Aside from embracing sustainability as part of its curriculum, UNT is taking steps to incorporate the philosophy into its operating best practices. In late June, the 24,000-square-foot new lab within the university's Life Science Complex earned a Gold LEED certification. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and the rating system was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.)

The facility, which opened in October 2010, boasts the following green credentials:

  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures, which cut water usage by about 30 percent compared with traditional systems
  • Water-efficient landscaping that includes a focus on native and adaptive vegetation
  • The construction project relied on locally sourced materials from less than 500 miles away for approximately 20 percent of the overall project; 85 percent of the waste from the project was diverted to landfills
  • Rooftop greenhouses
  • Aquatics laboratories that hold more than 2,500 tanks

The new facility is the third LEED-certified facility in the UNT system. The school signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment back in 2008. Among one of the commitments in that pledge calls for signees to earn at least LEED Silver on all new buildings.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards