UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Child Care Center at Hort Woods, the first building on Penn State’s campus to receive LEED Platinum certification, chose Airius Air Pear fans to help create a natural ventilation system, cooling the building and classrooms, saving energy and involving children to learn about their environment.
The Airius fan system not only draws cooler air from the woodlands area outside the building, but also engages young children to help open windows and learn why using less air conditioning saves energy. The building, which opened in July 2011, was designed from the start to emphasize natural day lighting, green building materials, and rain collection systems and to make sure the kids learn about all of the reasons to go green. The architect was studioMLA of Boston with Reese Engineering of State College as the MEP engineers.
The building is situated next to one of the last stands of trees that had not been built upon at the campus, said Linda Duerr, director of education at the center. “What better to be in this location than a child-care center,” she said.
The idea of an indoor-outdoor integration to take advantage of the neighboring wooded microclimate was important from the start. Trails and an outdoor learning playground wind through the trees and allow children to play and learn in the outdoor environment.
The Airius Air Pear Thermal Equalizer fans, which contribute to LEED points, were installed in most classrooms of the building to draw cooler air from the woodland courtyard area on the north through the building and exhaust at the higher south-facing side of the building, where there is solar heat gain.
According to Bryan Smith, with Reese Engineering, select employees at the center get an email to open slider windows when outside conditions are favorable.
Children in the classrooms then see a green light and help teachers slide panels that open the windows on the south side, Smith explained. By opening the panels, the Airius fans are also activated to direct air out the windows.
To keep the process fun and interesting for the children, colorful kite spinners, called “fanimations,” were placed in front of some of the fans. Penn State’s College of Arts has also been involved, with input from children, to craft custom animated features to be propelled by the fans.
The average high temperature at Penn State in July is 82 degrees. But engineers using thermal imaging found temperatures in the Hort Woods were often five to 10 degrees cooler. By moving that cooler air inside, the center has been able to limit mechanical cooling for most of the summer months.
The woodlands also introduce outdoor breezes, sounds and even smells that, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineer’s (ASHRAE) standards, add to thermal comfort of people in a building.