2018 Green Building Summer Internship: Post-Occupancy Study of the Karl Miller Center

Written by Jocelyn Reynolds, B.S. Architecture and Student Fellow of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions + Omar Abu Sulaiman, B.S. Mechanical Engineering and Student Fellow of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions.

For our Green Building Summer Internship, part of PSU’s Living Lab Program, we conducted a post-occupancy study of the new Karl Miller Center (KMC). The KMC was completed in the fall of 2017 and is set to earn LEED Platinum certification for its sustainable design strategies, including passive ventilation in the new “Pavilion” portion of the building. A Siemens system controls the window operations in this portion of the building. The code in summer time commands the windows to open at night to allow for ‘night flush,’ which flushes the hot air out of the building through the atrium exhausts. The result is classrooms are well-ventilated, cooled, and refreshed by the cooler outside air by morning time.

Part of our study focused on comparing the performance of the passive Pavilion to the Renovated side of the building, which has a conventional HVAC system. We surveyed students throughout the summer as they took classes in the Renovated side to find their thermal comfort levels and location preferences within the building.

We also installed and monitored data-logging sensors provided by the BUILT Lab and PSU Facilities & Property Management in 22 KMC classrooms to record indoor air temperatures, CO2 levels, and air flow. A handheld laser thermometer was used to record the concrete floor slab temperatures in each individual Pavilion classroom. In addition, we gained experience performing Energy Use Index (EUI) calculations, air flow calculations, ceiling plenum documentation, and learned more about how a Building Automation System (BAS) operates.

Using this information, we compared the survey data (perception) with the quantitative data (performance) to identify comfort thresholds and trends. Not surprisingly, the data show that students who indicated a good comfort level were at least 79% likely to be cool, versus warm.

Working in the Capital Projects and Construction office gave us exposure to the types of projects we expect to work in a construction management environment, which was something neither of us had experienced before this summer. During our internship, we had many opportunities to engage with and learn from professional engineers, architects, contractors, project managers, and control system operators who were involved in the Karl Miller Center design and construction. One of the most exciting parts was getting to participate in automated system troubleshooting meetings with the various team members. It was really eye-opening for both of us to get to see just how many people and building products it takes to design and build a space as complicated as the KMC. Through this highly cross-disciplinary collaborative internship, we were able to share architecture and engineering knowledge back and forth and gain skills we might not have learned in our own major specific courses.

Moving forward, Jocelyn is excited to continue working towards an architecture career in sustainable design and Omar is interested in controls and sensors in automated systems.