Architectural engineering teams make historic haul in ASHRAE competition

Architectural engineering teams make historic haul in ASHRAE competition

Calendar Icon Aug 28, 2015      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed RSS

David Yuill, associate professor of architectural engineering.
David Yuill, associate professor of architectural engineering.
Despite having to overcome two strikes against them, a team of UNL architectural engineering students hit a historic home run in the annual ASHRAE student design competitions.

The competitions sponsored by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) receive entries for energy-efficient, green building designs from all over the world.

By taking first place in two categories – System Selection and Design Calculations – and third place in the Applied Engineering Challenge, UNL became the first school to gain top-three finishes in three categories.

The students worked on their entry as a project in a senior design course taught by David Yuill, associate professor of architectural engineering, and Joe Hazel, an industry advisor from Specialized Engineering Solutions.

Yuill, who just finished his first year teaching the course, was a little surprised at the team’s success, especially considering it had more obstacles than some of the other schools in the competition.

“ASHRAE gives you a year to work on the entry, and a lot of universities spend a whole year on it,” Yuill said. “We spend just one semester, in the design course. Some of our strongest competitors are Kansas State and Penn State, who also win quite often. Their undergraduate degree programs run five years and, as such, they have fifth-year students with more experience where we have fourth-year students.

“We’re sort of playing at a disadvantage in this competition, but we won anyway.”

The main project entailed designing an air conditioning and ventilation system for a building in Doha, Qatar, after receiving the architect’s designs for the building. The project, Yuill said, replicates what an architectural engineer would do in a real-world professional situation, including delegating the work to specialized teams.

The System Selection team of Brianna Brass, Matthew Easlon, Mary Kleinsasser, Ben MacKenzie, and Rachel Obenland, designed the system and analyzed different options for the equipment that would be installed.

The Design Calculations team – Kristin Hanna, Garrett Johnson and Mark Wilder – handled finer details of the system design, such as load calculation, duct work and diffusers, Yuill said.

Yuill said the UNLs team considered many different options – including suggestions from Yuill and industry advisors Hazel and Daniel Karnes of Leo A. Daly – before settling on a design. Some of its novel features included:

* Using photovoltaic panels as sun shades on the building’s windows for a dual purpose – blocking direct sunlight from entering and converting that light into electricity that reduces the building’s outside energy consumption.

* Running miles of pipe out to the Persian Gulf to use sea water to cool the air conditioners.

* Cooling some of the water used in the air conditioning system by running it through an outdoor fountain instead of using a cooling tower, which is standard in many bigger buildings like the Peter Kiewit Institute on the Omaha Campus. The fountain sprays the heated water into the air. Some of it evaporates, but most of it cools and is collected in the fountain and recycled. This feature gives the building not only functionality, but an aesthetically pleasing design, Yuill said.

For the Applied Engineering Challenge, ASHRAE asked students to design a portable device that could be used on the construction sites to help heat-afflicted workers. While Qatar builds stadiums in preparation for hosting soccer’s World Cup in 2022, more than 1,200 construction workers have died of heat-related diseases since 2011.

The UNL team of James Butler and James O’Dell took third place for designing a pop-up tent equipped with an air conditioner and a water-cooled vest that can be strapped on a patient to help more quickly cool the core body temperature.

The two first-place teams earned $2,000 each, and all three teams were given all-expenses-paid trips for one team member to the annual ASHRAE conference in Orlando, Fla., in January. Yuill said he expects most of the team would have been planning to attend the conference anyway, and that the prize money might be used to defray the travel costs of the entire UNL team.

Though he’s not scheduled to teach the senior design course this academic year, Yuill remains certain the UNL entry in the next ASHRAE contest will be just as strong as the 2015 entry because of “a consistently high caliber of students that are attracted to the architectural engineering program.

“This was all about how talented our students are, they did the hard work,” Yuill said. “I’m proud of them and glad to have been involved.”