Student sustainability projects
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Taking the heat
Voted Sydney's ugliest building by The Sydney Morning Herald readers in 2006, the UTS Tower (Building 1) has a formidable presence. As such, it serves as an advertisement for UTS - and its upgrade has the potential to demonstrate visibly the changes being made under the university's sustainability drive.
The upgrade of The Tower is one of the most challenging projects under the UTS Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) Masterplan. FMU project manager and Dr Jafar Madadnia (UTS:Engineering) have developed an idea that pulls all the university's resources together to tackle the problem of how to make Building 1 our 'Landmark Environmental Tower'.
In 2008, postgraduate students enrolled in the subject Energy Conversion, taught by Dr Jafar, undertook a trial project to design, build and test a sustainable energy system for The Tower.
Students developed proposals to satisfy the brief provided by the Facilities Management Unit (FMU), and successful proposals were funded by FMU to allow students to buy equipment and carry out the project. As well as funding, the FMU also supported students with expertise, time, effort and knowledge to help the projects succeed.
Five projects were selected for detailed modelling, testing and analysis:
- Solar-cells, passive ventilation and façade characteristics
- Feasibility study of hydro turbine
- Ducted wind turbine
- Feasibility study of cogeneration
- Feasibility study of an efficient boiler heat recovery system.
Of these, the efficient boiler heat recovery system will be the first to be implemented by FMU.
The City Campus is heated by a hot water system incorporated into the airconditioning system. This system also provides hot water in Buildings 1 and 2.
The system consists of three natural gas-fired boilers: two large ones which operate on demand during peak term-time business hours, and one small one for off-peak service. The exhaust gases from these boilers reach 250 degrees Celsius and, at present, are vented into the atmosphere. The students' proposal is to put this wasted energy through a heat exchanger which will use the exhaust gases to pre-heat the cold water entering the boilers, thereby reducing the amount of energy needed to heat the water from cold.
The boiler heat recovery system offers a potential saving of 2997 GJ per year in energy and avoids 208.9 tonnes of greenhouse gas per year - the equivalent of 24 average Australian households' annual emissions.
FMU have approved and funded the boiler heat recovery system for implementation over summer 2008 09, and another group of students are working with Dr Jafar to make technical recommendations for the heat exchanger that will maximise energy efficiency. Postgraduate students Antony Henry and Kavit Pandya, who proposed the boiler heat recovery system, found working on a real-life project very rewarding.
'Think-Change-Do was the main powering force to achieve our objectives, and the main thing we learned from this project was teamwork,' says Pandya.
'We visited so many places to gather information about the project, contacted suppliers outside Australia and came to know the problems faced by engineers and managers in starting a new project. We got a range of opinions and a combination of strengths to help us decide the right option.'
Henry agrees. 'Close contact with the engineers at UTS proved to be a learning experience,' he says. 'Instead of focusing on the theoretical part of energy efficiency, this project helped to develop our practical knowledge and apply it to the UTS building.'
UTS staff are also delighted with the outcome, and keen to build on the success of this trial program. 'The students stepped up to the challenge and were very professional,' says Peter Lewis. 'The students who worked on the solar cells, passive ventilation and façade project are also continuing their research with the support of UTS.'