The Path to Zero Net Energy Includes Flow Tech – The John J. Sbrega Health and Science Building

Recently High Performance Buildings published the article, “John J. Sbrega Heath and Science Building, Fall River, MA” about the first zero net energy (ZNE) lab in the Northeastern United States. The article focuses on the systems and technology included in the design that helped Bristol Community College (BCC) reduce energy consumption by 70% with no added construction cost.

Flow Tech is proud to have provided the Aircuity demand control ventilation facility monitoring system that helped BCC’s John J. Sbrega Health and Science Building achieve its zero net energy status. Here are some highlights of those systems’ benefits.


The Solution: Filtered Fume Hoods + Air Quality Monitoring

One of the larger contributors to achieving net zero energy was airside optimization to address the HVAC energy use, which typically accounts for 50-70% of the total energy consumption in a lab building. Optimizing the HVAC energy use in the building included designing in filtered fume hoods, fan coil units, enthalpy wheels and Aircuity.


filtered fume hoods

Filtered Fume Hoods


Fan Coil Unit

Fan Coil Units


Enthaply Wheels

Enthalpy Wheel



The following is being monitored in the sensor suites located in the building’s Dental/Nursing Practitioner lab/classroom(s) and a BioScience lab:

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Small Particles
  • Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC)

Trifold of Benefits with Aircuity


Dental Lab

Dental Practitioner Lab


  1. Reduction in the baseline air change rates from 6 ACH to 4 ACH during occupied times and 2 ACH during times when the space is typically unoccupied.


  1. Optimization of the amount of fresh air ventilation in the labs along with filtered fume hoods and fan coil units meant the air handler and ductwork could be sized for minimum air change rates, resulting in first cost savings.


  1. Increased occupant safety. Adding Aircuity into the design enhanced the environment for both students and staff and added an extra sense of safety to the space. When an event is sensed, such as a spill, ventilation rates are automatically increased until the air is determined to be clean. Data on IEQ is accessible and can be tracked and measured to oversee what is going on in the space.


Nursing Lab

Nursing Lab


Construction and Life Cycle Costs

The zero net energy design not only eliminated fossil fuel consumption, but it comparatively reduced overall energy consumption by a predicted 70%. The reconciled construction budget of the ZNE design resulted in a slight increase in cost. This increase was more than covered by the utility incentives and a Pathways to Zero Grant from the MA DOER. As shown in the chart below, the net life-cycle cost savings of the building and power purchase agreement are estimated to be over $4 million. “The silver lining is that the combined operating savings of $230,000 per year is roughly equivalent to the annual tuition of 50 students at BCC,” said Jacob Knowles, Director of Sustainability Design at BR+A.


Bristol Community College ZNE Life Cycle Costs

The cost of Aircuity is offset by the savings seen in ducts, venturi valves, chillers and air-handling units.


The outstanding results have earned attention and accolades. The project received the three following awards and recognition in 2014: MA DOER Leading by Example Award, ASHRAE Region 1 Award for Engineering Excellence and Community College Futures Assembly Bellwether Award Finalist 2014. In 2015 the project earned a National Association of College and University Business Officers Innovation Award. This demonstrates that with the right design, ZNE is achievable and the better choice based on energy.


About Bristol Community College

As the leading resource for education and workforce development in southeastern Massachusetts, Bristol Community College provides programs that promote individual opportunity and the region’s economic health. The College has an undergraduate population of 12,514 (unduplicated headcount of credit students for 2013-14) and 19,256 in noncredit enrollments. Bristol Community College changes the world by changing lives, learner by learner.


BioScience Lab

BioScience Lab


We’d love to help you on the journey to zero net energy. For more information about this project, recommendations, or to speak with someone about Aircuity contact Tom Proietti at 860.221.0877. For general Flow Tech inquiries, you can always visit our website or email us. Don’t forget to follow us on social media: Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.

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