The Energy Research Lab is a free-standing energy research laboratory. Located near the College's observatory, the lab offers students and faculty in the Departments of Physics & Astronomy and Mathematics & Computer Science a unique opportunity to research energy monitoring, energy conservation, and sustainable housing in a grant-based project on campus.
A 26'x45' building that features advanced building materials and technologies, it is constructed with walls of 1-ft.-thick concrete mixed with twisted, 1"-long stainless steel "helices." The helices provide strength and flexibility to the concrete and uphold structural integrity in tornados and earthquakes. The walls also possesses excellent thermal mass, the ability to hold fairly constant temperatures over extended periods of time. Solar panels and groundwater wells provide heated or cooled water for tubing inside the walls, which then keep the interior of the structure at comfortable temperatures.
The ultimate objective of the project is to test the wall's thermal mass by maintaining proper temperatures inside the building with minimal energy-input using sustainable resources, in this case using solar power and ground water. Students are tasked with developing new software, hardware, and temperature and power monitoring devices in an effort to test the functionality of the building and their own equipment.
With record-cold temperatures across the country this past winter, increasing energy costs, and government restrictions on traditional energy sources, the need to find cost-effective and energy-efficient technologies for both homes and commercial buildings is helping to drive the evolution of building technologies.
Funds to build the Energy Research Laboratory were provided by the Pensmore Foundation. Steven Huff '73 is chairman of both the Foundation and of TF Concrete Forming Systems.
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