MoCo Arts, a nonprofit family-based arts education organization in Keene, NH, had solar planned for phase two of its brand new facility, somewhere off in the future. But thanks to a grant through The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, phase two was completed four weeks after the new building opened.
The two story building, featuring a black box theater that seats 200 and three full-sized studios, was designed by architect and MoCo parent, Katie Cassidy Sutherland, and has energy efficiency in its DNA. At 17,000 square feet, it was designed to have energy costs similar to MoCo’s previous 7,700 square foot building.
Sutherland, working with H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, a New York City theater architect firm, designed the building for LED lighting inside and out. Many lights have timers, daylight sensors, and motion detectors, so the lights are never on when they are not needed.
Heating, cooling, and ventilation is through an air distribution system that is gas-fired and electrically cooled. It is controlled with a web-based energy management system. There are seven zones giving MoCo the ability to heat or cool each area based on usage and solar exposure.
The building envelope plays an important role in helping MoCo meet its energy efficiency goals. It exceeds energy code by 50% by employing: A continuous air barrier system; over the air barrier, four inches continuous insulation at the exterior wall and eight inches at the roof; two inches continuous insulation below the slab; enough rigid insulation that the dew point occurs outside the building, eliminating condensation within the structure.
The building is oriented to maximize sun exposure for passive heating, daylighting, and the new solar photovoltaic system. Another aspect of daylighting is the Kalwall translucent wall system in the lobby and one studio. Kalwall makes highly insulating, diffuse light-transmitting walls which allow light to come in while blocking solar heat. This allows natural daylighting without increasing the need for air conditioning.
“It’s amazing,” said executive director Reagan Messer. “The staff and families all pinch ourselves every day.”
Messer particularly likes the Kalwall systems. Kalwall, a Manchester, NH company, provides its trademarked “museum quality daylighting” with lightweight structural sandwich panels. The company claims its panels are 400% more energy-efficient than double-paned insulated glass. The Kalwall system provides diffuse daylighting in the MoCo lobby. In Messer’s office, two walls are windows, and he rarely has to turn on a light.
The intention was always to have solar on the roof to meet 100% of electricity needs. But that was aspirational, with MoCo focusing on raising $5 million for its new home. Then a few months ago, The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation contacted MoCo and said they had a donor who was interested. Working through a donor-advised fund, the Foundation facilitated a $138,000 grant to install one hundred thirty-seven 360 watt modules, manufactured in Canada by Heliene. Total array size is 49.32kW DC. The array is expected to produce between 56,000-58,000kWh annually. Solar Source, a division of The Melanson Company Inc., designed and installed the system. A small portion of the grant is set aside for maintenance.
The system went live on September 28th and will meet 70% of MoCo’s needs, short of the original goal of 100%. The installation was limited by roof size. Still, the array significantly reduces overhead and allows MoCo to focus on its mission. The nonprofit already provides $70,000 a year in tuition aid. Trimming the electric bill will allow that to increase. “The generosity is allowing us to breath easy for many years to come,” says Messer.
Other energy-conscious features include structural concrete floors for thermal mass, which reduce heating needs; recycled and regionally produced building materials; low impact development techniques to reduce storm water runoff; plumbing systems designed to conserve water; and not least, site selection in downtown Keene, which make MoCo accessible by public transportation, walking, and biking.
Jessie Haas has written 40 books, mainly for children, and has lived in an off-grid cabin in Westminster West, VT since 1984, www.jessiehaas.com.
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