H-S Breaks Ground on Unique Energy Research Lab

August 17, 2014

On Monday, August 11, Hampden-Sydney College broke ground on a free-standing energy research laboratory.  Students and faculty in the Departments of Physics & Astronomy, and Mathematics & Computer Science will have an unusual opportunity to research energy monitoring, energy conservation, and sustainable housing in a grant-based project on campus. The laboratory is located near the College's observatory.

Steve HuffFunds to build the Energy Research Laboratory, a 26'x45' building that will feature advanced building materials and technologies, were provided by the Pensmore Foundation.  Steven Huff, Hampden-Sydney Class of 1973 is chairman of both the Foundation and of TF Concrete Forming Systems.

workman adding helices to concreteThe building is constructed with walls of 1-ft.-thick concrete mixed with twisted, 1"-long stainless steel "helices," which provide strength and flexibility to the concrete and uphold structural integrity in tornados and earthquakes. The wall 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.

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.

The Pensmore Foundation explores issues related to the intersection of science and faith, and research on highly durable energy-conserving construction systems and methodology.  The Foundation has organized or sponsored multiple national conferences, including the Pensmore Dialogue on Science and Faith, as well as the establishment of the Energy Research Laboratory at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. The Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals or requests.

Ground Breaking Participants(left to right) Dr. Dennis Stevens, Dean of teh Faculty; Glenn Culley VP for Business Affairs; Dr. Mike McDermott, Professor of Physics and Astronomy & Associate Dean of the Faculty; Dr. Stan Cheyne, Professor of Physics & Astronomy; Steve Huff '73; and Dr. Paul Hemler, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science.