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Two buildings that will generate more energy than they consume are proud additions to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus. In November, the university held a grand opening for two 1,400-square-foot Flexible Response to Ongoing Growth (FROG) classrooms at the College of Education. Funded with part of a $4.5-million grant from the Office of Naval Research and managed by UH Mānoa’s Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute (HNEI), these net-zero structures will provide valuable data on the effects of energy usage and building design on energy demand.

“This project is part of a larger research program, funded by the Office of Naval Research, intended to evaluate the performance and integration of a range of energy technologies that includes energy efficiency, storage and renewable generation systems,” said Richard Rocheleau, HNEI director.

The grant funded the $2 million construction of the classroom buildings, which were designed and installed by Project Frog, a California building technology company. Funding for site work and landscaping was provided by the UH Mānoa Office of Planning and Facilities.

“We are excited to learn more about sustainable, energy-efficient building design and operations from the innovative FROG demonstration project,” said UH Sustainability Coordinator Matthew K. Lynch. “Our goal with these kinds of pilot projects is to adapt and apply the lessons we will learn at scale.”

Exterior of building

Buildings serve as research platforms

As research platforms, the classrooms incorporate a real-time dashboard that displays current and past operating conditions, including outdoor climate and indoor comfort indicators as well as energy use by the different components. Intended as an educational tool, the dashboard will foster more efficient behavior by allowing users to visualize their energy usage and generation. It will also serve as a source of data for developing STEM-based curriculum.

The classrooms feature high efficiency LED lighting with adjustable modes and sensors that respond to the amount of natural daylight in the room to control lighting usage. The walls and ceilings are highly insulated, and the windows feature high-performance glazing that allows visible light through minimizing the infrared spectrum responsible for solar heat gain in a building. Each of the two rooftops will be fitted with five kW photovoltaic arrays.

The UH classrooms are “mixed-mode” structures, using both natural ventilation and air conditioning. In addition to being used as classrooms, HNEI is using the structures as research platforms to test efficient building technologies such as energy storage, advanced occupancy sensing and advanced fan control. The University of Hawaiʻi has set a goal of becoming net-zero, defined as generating at least as much energy as it consumes, by the year 2035.

The two UH classrooms are the last of five platforms installed in Hawaiʻi. The first FROG classroom was built in 2011 at ʻIlima Intermediate School in Ewa Beach, Oʻahu. In 2013, two classrooms were installed at Kawaikini New Century Charter School in Līhuʻe, Kauaʻi. The UH buildings are are considered a second-generation design and are expected to consume less energy than the first three.

Students seated in a classroom

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