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PEAK Institute

TLC’s R&D Team

Building technologies are evolving rapidly, challenging design teams to incorporate revolutionary options to reduce energy and water consumption, enhance building occupant productivity and health, make a building smarter to operate or whatever is over the horizon. TLC actively researches new technologies and how they may be incorporated into our designs, as well as how to accurately model these when evaluating building energy budgets. TLC’s Peak Institute, also known as PI, leads the way in embracing new systems and technology, as well as sharing this information across TLC and with our clients to benefit building owners. Got a challenge or an idea to explore? The PI team is looking around corners, finding unique ways to apply existing technology and solving the challenges of incorporating new technologies.

Kim E Shinn

I practice engineering because the results of my work can improve and protect the health, safety and welfare of human beings.  In short, it’s not my career, it’s my cause.

Kim E Shinn Principal | Sustainability Wizard | PEAK Institute 615.394.4297
A. Brian Lomel

Solving customer challenges with the latest advances in engineering is what we do.

A. Brian Lomel Principal | Director of PEAK Institute 954.439.6137
Cory Duggin

I enjoy figuring out how to model stuff no one has done before.

Cory Duggin Principal | PEAK Institute 615.346.1939
David V. Miller

I have always been interested in how things work. As an engineer and a commissioning agent, I am able to stimulate this curiosity on a daily basis. Additionally, the commissioning process often provides an immediate and tangible sense of accomplishment.

David V. Miller Principal | PEAK Institute 321.877.4291
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Dynamic Glazing Modeling

Façade designs that incorporate high amounts of glazing can be found in every major world city. From a thermal standpoint, windows are the most critical component of the building envelope design because they allow 10 times as much heat to pass through them as the opaque walls that surround them. The benefit of glazing is to provide a connection for occupants to the outside world whether it be to allow for greater circadian stimulation or looking out on nature, creating the biophilic reaction in our bodies that we love, but a great view is useless if the blinds have to constantly be lowered to keep from being blinded by glare. We engineer the balance of the impact of the glazing on building performance, while allowing for the other positive benefits.

Dynamic glazing is one technology that can be incorporated to balance the performance impact of window-to-wall ratios (WWR). It allows the optical properties of a glazing unit to be changed in order to control solar gain and glare. The type of dynamic glazing most commonly seen in the commercial building market is electrochromic glazing, which uses an electrical charge from a control system to change the glazing tint state. It’s like transition lenses for buildings. The glazing control system darkens the glass when it receives high amounts of direct solar radiation, reducing the cooling load and occupant discomfort (in the form of glare and direct solar exposure).

Even though this technology is not new to the market, it has not been widely adopted, so there are limited tools to analyze all aspects of its performance. TLC developed our own modeling library to be used in conjunction with IES’ Virtual Environment to properly account for the daylighting and solar effects of dynamic glazing in phase with one another.

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Indoor Air Quality

People spend nearly 90% of their time inside buildings. The quality of these environments affects our health, well-being, and productivity significantly. The ventilation section the International Mechanical Code and of ASHRAE 62.1: Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality specifies the minimum amount of ventilation (aka outside air) in buildings required to create a healthy environment. While the most common route to meeting the code is to engineer ventilation systems based on prescriptive ventilation rates, more and more practitioners are moving towards performance based metrics. This is due to the increase in availability of air quality monitors, and the greatly reduced cost of this equipment.

The Indoor Air Quality Procedure (IAQP) of ASHRAE 62.1 isn’t new, but more advanced air-cleaning and monitoring technologies have led to it being applied more often. Since the IAQP is performance-based, it can account for the effects of air-cleaning technology on the particular contaminants of concern. When applied correctly, this results in a lower required amount of outside air, which reduces energy use and peak heating and cooling loads, while increasing the air quality of the indoor environment.

The Cognitive Function Studies, (#COGfx), by a variety of sources, show a clear correlation between mental performance and air quality. This understanding is driving more and more owners to establish Air Quality Performance Criteria for their spaces. Air Quality targets from the WELL Building Std v2,Air Quality Prerequisite 1 are used by many as design targets.

TLC designs systems to meet this criteria by using Pollutant Adsorption, Bipolar Ionization, and Biofiltration among other strategies to remove contaminants from the air. Smart Building technology can be used to monitor air, water, light, and acoustic quality in a space and alert building owners as to when an input is required.

For more information about engineering to meet Air Quality goals, read the article in Consulting-Specifying Engineer Magazine authored by the PEAK Institute’s Cory Duggin.

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Outdoor Thermal Comfort

Lots of research has been done to try and quantify the subjective nature of occupant comfort. In the AEC industry we often focus on the indoor thermal comfort of occupants. Many designers use exterior spaces for transition between buildings on campuses or retail establishments. Foot traffic drives retail, and retail drives the success of many project types. Making customers traversing the outdoor part of a development comfortable is just a matter of taking the skills used to create comfort indoors and applying these principles to the outdoor space. The creative use of shading, air movement, daylighting, heat reclamation, and humidity management can make these outdoor spaces slightly more comfortable.  Utilizing exterior spaces for some of this program also reduces the energy impact of the buildings because that area no longer has to be heated, cooled, or ventilated.

TLC uses computational fluid dynamics simulations in conjunction with large scale solar shading analysis to inform strategies for creating comfortable outdoor spaces. Rather than using ASHRAE 55, which is used for indoor thermal comfort analysis, the Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI) is used to quantify the effective outdoor comfort criteria. Most people are familiar with its use in weather forecasts to indicate what temperature the weather feels like from the effects of wind speed, temperature, and humidity.

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Energy Storage Generation

At TLC we strive to provide the most energy efficient and cost effective solutions to our clients. Buildings are responsible for 40% of global energy consumption. Even though we reduce the energy consumption by incorporating high performance design strategies, there is a minimum amount of energy that still has to be consumed. Three strategies we routinely investigate are thermal energy storage, combined heat and power, and renewable energy generation.

Electricity is most expensive when everyone else wants to use it. Thermal energy storage (TES) allows owners to shift part of their electricity load to off-peak times, which reduces the energy cost. Since this helps utility companies, they often incentivize the installation of peak shifting systems.  Successful projects include ice storage, chilled water and other forms of thermal energy storage.

Combined heat and power puts some of the power generation in the hands of the owner. In areas where natural gas is cheap and electricity is expensive, it is more economical for facilities to use reciprocating engines or micro-turbines to generate electricity on site. Heat is created as a byproduct of the combustion in the engine or turbine, which can be used for reducing boiler loads. CHP is most commonly employed in facilities that can utilize the waste heat year-round to maximize the benefit of both energy streams. Absorption chillers can also be coupled with a CHP to create a tri-generation system, meaning chilled water, electricity, and hot water are all being created by the same system.

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Renewable Energy

Why continue to use finite energy sources when energy from the Sun is free? Solar water heating is a multiple thousand year old technology, and yet still not prevalent in modern design.

Solar water heating, solar electric power generation, wind-based electric power generation, geothermal energy are all strategies in our renewable energy toolkit. Our process is to analyze available potential energy sources, usages and available rebate/incentive plans for a project. Successful projects have not only reduced their power bills, but also achieved LEED platinum status, and other certification recognitions.

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Daylight harvesting and Circadian Lighting

Lighting is responsible for a very large segment of a building’s energy consumption profile. Not only does it take energy to create the light, the inefficiency of the bulb turns the unused electricity into heat, which is removed by the HVAC system. Adding those two power usages together highlights the significance of energy used by lighting systems.

In addition, lighting is a primary driver of health. Recently discovered health findings show that not all light stimulus on the body creates visible signals in the brain. The intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) in the eyes, discovered in 1923, have only recently begun to be understood fully, including how they play a role in synchronizing the circadian rhythms of the body. The body responds to color and intensity of light. In some cases the lack of adequate lighting can contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and other disorders. Circadian lighting is an effective tool in places with limited access to outdoor views, such as Newborn Intensive Care Units (NICU), office areas, back-of-house workspaces in hotels, and other spaces. Design now takes accessibility of full spectrum daylight into account when designing lighting spaces, setting targets not just for lighting power density, but also color and intensity.