NUS School of Design and Environment presentation at MIT

Prof. Christoph Reinhart, Director of the Building Technology Program at MIT/ Department of Architecture, is teaching a new seminar entitled From the Solar House to Net Zero Buildings. In the spring seminar he combined a historic review of significant high-performance buildings all the way to newly built net-zero buildings with hands-on simulation techniques for students to study these. One notable example is the National University of Singapore’s extension for the School of Design and Environment as an outstanding net-zero energy building in the tropics.

Today, Prof. Nirmal Tulsidas Kishnani (NUS) and Dr. Wolfgang Kessling (Transsolar) will give a 90-minute lecture with discussion.
Prof. Kishnani will represent the NUS team that consisted of client (university), users (school) and experts (from the departments of building and architecture). They were involved in decisions affecting the zero-energy target, and in greenlighting the hybrid cooling system. The NUS team also managed the ‘integrated design process’ that created the space for these decisions to be made. Dr. Wolfgang Kessling will explain in detail the comfort approach that makes this building so exceptional, especially in this climate zone.

Prof. Kishnani speaking for the NUS team says:
“Wolfgang and his team were responsible for the performance modelling of the zero-energy building at the School of Design and Environment. Our role, as users and process managers, was to create room for design innovation. As part of that undertaking, we greenlighted the proposed ‘hybrid cooling system’ (combination of ceiling fans and tempered air) which, at the time, was not fully understood nor tested. This system would be central to achieving the zero-energy target, but it would also impact the way we use and experience the indoor environment. Many of my colleagues are thermal comfort experts with intimate knowledge of cooling systems in the tropics. With their help, we facilitated mock-ups of the system on and off campus to see how the idea worked in practise. The challenge for Wolfgang, beyond the technical questions of how this system functioned, was that we were a critical and informed client and he needed to create buy-in. He did this remarkably well.”

At MIT, for the past decade, MArch students have studied environmental modeling for daylighting from the first semester onwards as part of the general introduction to building technology. In this seminar, Prof. Reinhart wanted to go deeper, exploring traditional techniques such as solar chimneys and Trombe walls and natural ventilation which are significantly harder to model/design than their active cousins.
With the lecture about NUS’s extension for the School of Design and Environment the MIT students are offered a sense of the different roles involved in making a net zero building a reality.

Photo: With courtesy of National University of Singapore, School of Design and Environment