Business School on Path to Become Largest Net Zero Energy Building in Southeastern United States

Stevens & Wilkinson, a full-service architecture, engineering and interior design firm with offices in Atlanta and Columbia, S.C., recently completed the engineering design for the University of South Carolina’s new Darla Moore School of Business. The finished project, which is slated to achieve LEED Platinum designation from the U.S. Green Building Council later this year, had been initiated when the university was hand-selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to partner with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as part of the agency’s Net Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative.

The prestigious program, designed to help the DOE achieve a goal of providing marketable net-zero energy commercial buildings by 2025, served as a key project focus for Stevens & Wilkinson and partner-firm Rafael Viñoly Architects (RVA), architect of record.

The new Darla Moore School of Business showcases the university’s longstanding commitment to efficient energy usage as it is anticipated to become the first Net Zero higher education facility of its kind in the southeastern U.S. capable of generating as much energy as it consumes through the design of advanced technologies.

“Our team implemented smart design solutions that make the new Darla Moore School of Business a highly sustainable, functional and visually dynamic facility for the university’s students and faculty,” said Keith Branham, P.E., LEED AP, senior vice president, director of engineering for Stevens & Wilkinson, S.C., who served as lead for the project. “We are thrilled because we know each of the methods and technologies developed during the design of this building will guide efforts for all new facilities located or associated with the University of South Carolina moving forward.”

Mechanical and Electrical Design: Improving Building Efficiency: Designed with the goal of furthering the school’s mission of providing students with a top-tier education, one that welcomes collaboration, encourages excellence and incites creativity, the new Darla Moore School of Business features a number of sustainable design elements that include: the use of green turf for heat reduction; reusable waste management systems; a state-of-the-art hybrid HVAC system; and natural daylighting. Rainwater harvesting for irrigation and building toilet use also contributes to the building’s overall water-use reduction of more than 50 percent.

From an electrical standpoint, systems were efficiently distributed from the main switchgear by way of two vertical power feeders to equipment located on each of the building’s six levels. An emergency power system was developed to service life-safety loads and other legally required emergency equipment in the event of a power outage.

An energy monitoring system was also designed and implemented to measure the amount of energy used by the building and was created specifically for systems and components that include interior and exterior lighting, heating and cooling, fan motors, elevators, and kitchen equipment and building-plug loads. Branham said all successful outcomes, when taking into consideration the preliminary information, yielded directly from the system. “Given our region’s hot, and at times, humid climate, our team’s efforts will help curb the amount of energy needed to effectively heat and cool a building of this size and magnitude.”

The net result of the building’s blended sustainable design features an optimized energy performance of 43 percent, a percentage that is much higher than the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ (ASHRAE) 90.1 standards.

Civil and Structural Design Considerations: Given the site’s dramatic elevation changes, the team specifically implemented solutions to maximize the facility’s operational flexibility by incorporating building entries on multiple levels. Furthermore, civil engineering design services ensured proper storm water management for flood prevention, site utilities and government agency approvals.

Accelerated site and structural design packages were also issued to meet the rigorous planning schedule and expedited start date of construction. Complexities included transfer columns to achieve the desired structural design, resulting in flexibility for a planted roof and potential future pavilions. Outboard columns required special consideration for bracing, while site soils required attention and monitoring in order to limit settlement impacts.

“The Stevens & Wilkinson team provided exceptional and professional support throughout our project and often were the main supporters of our vision when challenges arose,” said Debbie H. Brumbaugh, chief financial officer and director of administrative services, Darla Moore School of Business, office of the dean. “Their team seemed to always retain focus on our specifications, expectations, and the intended design plan. They could be relied upon to explore and solve complicated challenges in ways that were efficient and favorable for our school.”

Supplemental Project Information:

Darla Moore School of Business | University of South Carolina | Columbia, South Carolina

Provided Services: All engineering services (mechanical, electrical, structural, civil, fire protection, and plumbing)
Engineering Project Lead: Keith Branham, P.E., LEED AP
Project Partner/Architect of Record: Rafael Viñoly Architects, with architecture project lead Andrea Lamberti, AIA, NCARB
Undergraduate Students: 4,000
Graduate Students: 800
Darla Moore School of Business Faculty: 160
GSF (Gross Square Footage) of New Construction: Approximately 260,000 GSF
Project Delivery: Design-bid with the owner hiring a construction manager to help oversee the construction of the project
Budget: $108,000,000

Brief Project Description:  Stevens & Wilkinson, a full-service architecture, engineering and interior design firm with offices in Georgia and South Carolina, recently completed the engineering design for the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, a unified effort that will aid in exceeding the state’s baseline requirement of achieving LEED Silver certification.

The project, engineered by Stevens & Wilkinson’s South Carolina office, was designed in collaboration with lead Architect and project partner, Rafael Viñoly Architects (RVA). Showcasing the University’s longstanding commitment to sustainable design, the new Darla Moore School of Business furthers the school’s pledge to incorporate green building design techniques into its campus-wide operations and academic ventures.

Stevens & Wilkinson provided full-scale mechanical, civil, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, and structural engineering services for the recently opened Darla Moore School of Business.

Building highlights include numerous classrooms, student work spaces, and administrative and faculty offices. The six-story building, approximately 260,000 square feet of floor space (Levels 0 – 5), features a central courtyard and a double-height enclosed garden pavilion.

Opening its doors in the fall of 2014, the Darla Moore School of Business houses 35 classrooms, 136 offices, more than 40 meeting rooms, 79,000-square-feet of public space, a digitized library, trade room, and a landscaped green roof for events and receptions.