The MUM Sustainable Living Center
The hot-water heating system uses solar and geothermal heat to keep the building warm
The Center features many energy-saving features such a passive solar sun room on the south side
(photos by Kent West)
MUM Sustainable Living Center Outperforms Expectations
The Sustainable Living Center has caught the attention of an organization called Getting to Net Zero, which keeps track of ultra-efficient buildings and their energy usage. According to their calculations, the Center’s net Energy Use Intensity (EUI) was -0.5 in 2015, indicating that the building produced 5 percent more energy than it used. Net EUI is a measure of energy use per square foot per year minus renewable energy production. They said that the Center is among the highest-performing buildings they had encountered, especially given our harsh climate.
Net zero energy is a sought-after goal for many buildings in the world that rely on exceptional energy conservation and on-site renewable generation to meet all of their heating, cooling, and electricity needs. 2015 was the only year consistent data tracking was available at the Sustainable Living Center but, according to estimates, the building was even more efficient in previous years, producing as much as 30 percent more energy than it used.
“There are very few buildings in the world that can say they are net zero, and most of those are in climates that are far less demanding than ours,” said David Fisher, Professor of Sustainable Living. “That’s what makes the building so remarkable energy-wise.”
The building’s electricity comes from two sources: solar photovoltaic panels and a wind turbine. The heating is provided by solar hot water heaters. The heating and cooling are also supplemented by geothermal tubing. The building is currently grid-tied, feeding the excess capacity back to the MUM electrical grid and drawing from it in times of insufficient production. The overall energy consumption of the building, however, is negative.
“There are a lot of systems in the building,” said Dr. Fisher. “It is a living and growing demonstration building. I believe we could do even better.” Ideal Energy, the local alumni-owned company that installed the photovoltaic solar panels, is currently researching the feasibility of a battery-supported, off-the-grid system.