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Big Ass Fans Gets Some Gold by Going Green

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Big Ass Fans' new Research and Testing Center has been awarded Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGB). USGB is a national trade organization with specific guidelines to rate how "green" a new or remodeled building can be measured.

The 46,000-square-foot Research and Testing Center earned 43 LEED points (39 are required to attain GOLD LEED status.) Lexington's Gray Construction provided conceptual design services and helped manage the LEED certification process. WS Construction, a Gray subsidiary, managed the project and served as LEED Accredited Professional.

The new facility was specifically designed for testing and developing the company's large fans, which range from six to 24 feet in diameter. It's large enough for engineers and technicians to conduct fan performance testing, including air velocity profiles and fatigue testing of assemblies and components. Designers have plenty of room to build prototypes of new fans and try out structural innovations.

This performance testing area measures 42,000 square feet and has ceilings that are 60 feet high. Large, heavy curtains allow the space to be divided into four quadrants. These curtains can be pulled back to create a single space with enough room to test the largest of the fans. The building can also be reconfigured to simulate various applications for current or potential customers. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) mapping can also be done there to determine the performance of fans within a space.

Christian Taber, LEED AP, HBDP, CEM, serves as applications engineer at Big Ass Fans. Taber said that the new building's most impressive LEED feature is the "innovative air distribution system (that) was utilized in the office and shop areas of the building."

He explained that "the HVAC unit's fan moves the air through the HVAC unit and a very minimal amount of ductwork. The supply air is fed into two 12-foot Big Ass Fans, which ensure proper air distribution throughout the space."

Thus, Big Ass Fans used its own products to earn LEED points and lower energy costs in its own building. Obviously, it helps to be in the business, but using this configuration is another way to demonstrate to customers how well the fans work.

Implementing this design, Taber said, "lowered the static pressure experienced by the HVAC unit's supply fan, increased the efficiency of the air distribution system, and lowered the ventilation requirements for the spaces."

Using its own fans resulted in another cost-saving benefit for the company. Cooling costs will be lower because the increased movement of air means that the thermostat setpoint can be set higher, yet employees will still be comfortable while working.

Taber said that while the designers wanted to use energy-efficient lighting, the most energy efficient contains mercury. But by applying LEED for Existing Buildings, Materials and Resources Credit 6 (as an Innovation in Design Credit), mercury content of the lighting fixtures was kept to a minimum.

The lighting in the building is primarily high efficiency T8 fluorescent bulbs.

Other green features that earned LEED points include a reflective metal roof, natural daylighting, ultra low-flow plumbing fixtures, occupancy sensors, and low VOC floor coating and paints. Recycled construction materials were used whenever possible, including 98 percent of the steel used.

The new Research and Testing Center at Big Ass Fans uses 35 percent less energy and 58 percent less water than a conventional building of this type would use. Applying LEED guidelines to its construction meant that nine percent less material was used to build it and 51 percent less waste material was sent to the landfill. -- Margaret Buranen

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