Higher Education

2023 FEFPA Recap






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Each year, educational facility planners, architects, engineers, construction managers, and school administrators convene for a week at the Florida Educational Facilities Planners’ Association (FEFPA) conference to gain insights into the latest educational trends, exchange experiences with peers, learn more about new products and services, and acquire practical knowledge to enhance their work in planning, designing, and managing educational facilities in Florida.

The trends in educational facility design reflect the evolving nature of education and the changing needs of students in the 21st century. With increasing environmental consciousness, sustainable design practices have taken center stage in educational building design. Schools and universities are making climate strategies a priority by incorporating energy-efficient systems, utilizing natural light, and implementing renewable energy sources. Such initiatives reduce the institution's environmental footprint and teach students about sustainability and conservation.

At the 2023 FEFPA Conference in Boca Raton, approximately 200 professionals gathered to hear RLF design professionals Steve Langston and Jacob Anderson, along with Ben Fauser of the University of Central Florida and John Weaver of CPPI, present “Designing an Educational Industrial Building for Sustainability and Resiliency: Supporting a Goal of Campus Climate Neutrality.” The presentation focused on the RLF-designed UCF District Energy Plant IV, the university’s fourth energy plant and only industrial building on the 10 million-square-foot campus to achieve LEED Gold certification, a significant milestone in the campus goal of climate neutrality by 2050.

The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) defines climate neutrality as having no net greenhouse gas emissions – or gases that cause the greenhouse effect – by minimizing these emissions as much as possible and using carbon offsets, or other measures, to mitigate the remaining emissions. They propose a five-step process incorporating energy conservation, energy efficiency, fuel switching, renewable energy sources, and carbon mitigation.

Yielding a $121,000 annual savings, the 9,830-square-foot freestanding district energy plant at UCF connects to the campus chilled water loop, providing air conditioning processes to 157 buildings on campus and increasing cooling system capacity to 17,000 tons of mechanical refrigeration. The plant produces 4,180 tons of total chilled water generation capacity with a total plant efficiency of < ~0.70kw/ton, the highest efficiency plant on campus. The facility is also the first on campus to include heat recovery water chillers providing heating, air conditioning, and ventilation processes to the Research I laboratory building at a significant energy cost savings and with less environmental impact. With future growth in mind, the plant’s design allows for two 2000-ton chillers and a 160-ton heat recovery chiller allowing the university to expand up to 1.2 million square feet.

The project achieved 63 sustainable points on the LEED system addressing sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, and materials and resources. Most notable was the energy use reduction of 34% below the ASHRAE 90.1-2008 baseline through high-efficiency lighting, improved building envelope, and variable frequency drives on fan coil units. These strategies exceed the 30% goal reduction in energy consumption established by the owner.
The facility design integrates the engineering infrastructure and the surrounding aesthetics. Emphasis is placed on the exterior elevation design ensuring the building is architecturally compatible with its surroundings. The plant’s enclosure features “peek a boo” viewing holes that provide visual interest and teaching opportunities for UCF’s College of Engineering. Students can interact with color-coded pipes and control system dashboards based on real-time surveillance.

UCF continues to make strides in reaching its goal. In 2020, the university converted its two cooling towers to reclaimed water reducing potable water consumption by 85,000 gallons annually. As the university continues to grow, the management of environmental resources will become increasingly more important. The DEP IV and further improvements to the campus chilled water system are vital to this long-term effort.