Rethinking Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) in Harvard University’s River Houses: Engineering Sciences 96 Final Report
Author(s): Mason Brunnick, Hayden Burgoyne, Ben Chiel, Shomesh Chaudhuri, Or Gadish
Course Name: Engineering Sciences 96: Engineering Design Seminar
Institution: Harvard University
Publication Date: April, 2010
Paper Type: Non-thesis Undergraduate Student Research
This abstract applies to all four papers written for Engineering Sciences 96.
In the coming decade, Harvard University will confront a system-wide student housing renovation project. For the past eighty years, the Harvard House system has been an integral and strikingly successful part of the University’s recruitment, retention, and educational goals, and continues to house ninety-nine percent of Harvard’s upperclassmen. Despite the current financial climate, Harvard is determined to modernize its beloved but aging housing system to better meet the pedagogical goals of the University and the global concerns of sustainability. As part of that effort, the members of Harvard’s Junior Engineering Design Seminar were commissioned to investigate the project’s fundamental challenges, with the aim of discovering potential solutions and offering meaningful insights. Our efforts culminated in a detailed analysis of four crucial issues, presented here as our final report.
The report begins by addressing the fundamental underpinnings of the House system, offering a detailed analysis of the values the system seeks to instill in its members, the architectural principles that should guide renovators determined to uphold those values, and an initial exploration of specific solutions to the resulting design questions. This introductory section rests fundamentally on a detailed analysis of the House system’s history and current use, exhaustive personal interviews with relevant experts, independent architectural research, and the results of a unique and enlightening student survey.
Informed by this fundamental perspective, the report then proceeds to address challenges more directly related to the sustainable renovation of the House system, beginning with an evaluation of the eQuest energy model employed by the planning team. This state-of-the art model, designed to help make accurate predictions about the results of proposed renovations, presents troublingly large discrepancies when applied to the current, known usage levels even after undergoing an earlier peer review. Guided by an in-depth investigation into the real workings of the houses, as well as several independent experiments and observations, the report discusses previously unconsidered factors that help explain these discrepancies, and offers suggestions for restoring confidence in the model’s predictions.
The report then proceeds to an in-depth discussion of Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) and offers analysis of innovative solutions to reducing Harvard’s greenhouse gas footprint. After establishing a baseline model of the results of a standard renovation, the report presents the costs, challenges, advantages, and savings of four new solutions that are currently viable and should be seriously considered by the renovation team, as well as providing similar evaluations of methods that are currently impractical but which may become feasible with future technological advances.
The report concludes with a comprehensive analysis of the merits, challenges, and potential impacts of a variety of energy monitoring and regulating schemes. As a result of gathering a variety of data, investigating efforts of other corporations and universities, and conducting a number of detailed case studies, monitoring models are evaluated and compared in terms of cost and environmental impact. The report identifies those methods with the greatest potential, and provides recommendations for further investigation.
Please log in to view contact information.