Cutting Energy Use in Half: A Case Study of Cornell's Upson Hall Renovation

Michael Pulaski, Thornton Tomasetti

Cornell's Upson Hall is the first major renovation on the Engineering Quad, which has the set the stage for high performance engineering buildings on campus by achieving greater than 50% energy savings. The session will explore what the key design drivers were and how the design evolved throughout the course or the project. The project houses several engineering disciplines and consists of a mix of classroom space, faculty offices, teaching and research labs (wet and dry). As the first major renovation of the buildings in the engineering quad a detailed fašade master plan was performed which was highly influenced by a series of parametric daylight studies aimed at achieving a high level of daylight autonomy in each space type. To complicate this effort even further an effective wall insulation value of R-26 was targeted, which had several fašade design challenges that directly affected the thickness of the new fašade. As the fašade wall system got bigger, the daylight performance was impacted, thus requiring a delicate balance of performance, aesthetics and creatively. Energy use in University laboratories can vary greatly depending on the specific plug loads and ventilation requirements for each area of study to perform their research. High levels of ventilation require large amounts of outside air and tight control over space temperature and humidity. Energy savings for such projects are often achieved by using complex systems to reduce consumption while maintaining the necessary indoor conditions. An energy saving option is to decouple ventilation loads from space temperature loads by using Dedicated Outdoor Air Systems for the ventilation only and use fan coil units or chilled beams to maintain space temperature. From an energy analysis perspective, traditional energy modeling platforms such as eQuest are not able to efficiently and accurately simulate this type of system and require several workarounds such as creating dummy zones for the DOAS units which neglects the full scope of energy recovery possible. Because of these issues, Open Studio/Energy Plus was used as the energy modeling platform for evaluation on this project. The session will share some lessons learned from using this energy modeling platform and will summarize the critical findings from the analysis.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify critical energy leverage points on university laboratory projects.
  • Understand how analysis can inform design in a timely, efficient and iterative manner.
  • Understand the key differences using Energy Plus vs eQuest as energy modeling platforms.
  • Understand the fašade design complexities in achieving a high performance


Bio: Michael Pulaski, Ph.D., LEED AP BD+C, has more than 12 years of experience in sustainability consulting, offering sustainability strategies and programming, energy and environmental analysis, and certification management to building owners, design teams, and contractors for new construction and existing structures. Michael Pulaski is a founding member of the USGBC's Emerging Professionals Committee, and is an ambassador for the International Living Future Institute.


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