The University of North Texas is building a research laboratory that will allow professors and students to test the effectiveness of new sustainable technologies.
"It's a facility that tests technology for buildings that will have net-zero consumption of energy," said Costas Tsatsoulis, dean of UNT's College of Engineering.
One-third of the 1,200-square-foot facility will be a fully furnished living area, and the other two-thirds will be a laboratory, allowing researchers to study and measure the sustainability of materials in that environment. The facility will allow researchers to simulate a house as well as an office.
"It's a versatile space," said Yong Tao, chairman of the UNT department of mechanical and energy engineering, who helped design the lab.
The building at UNT's Discovery Park will be transformable, meaning the materials that make it up will be removable, from the walls to the floors, Tao said.
That way, when companies create a new sustainable material, whether it's a different type of wall or flooring, they will be able to test its effectiveness and cost reduction in the lab, Tao said.
"Ideally, it would be one-year testing so you have all four seasons," he said.
But time doesn't always permit for that kind of testing. In order to test multiple projects at a time, the facility will use weather simulation.
The facility will have solar panels and be on a smart grid system, which will make electricity available if there isn't enough energy to power the lab, and if there is excess energy, it goes back into the electrical grid, Tsatsoulis said.
The facility will work with geothermal as well as wind power.
All the elements of the building will be constantly measured, from light to temperature to energy, looking at the impact of energy consumption, Tao said.
Students studying all different types of engineering will be able to use the laboratory, Tsatsoulis said.
"It's a lab both for graduates and undergraduates, both for research and construction," he said.
"I also view it as a resource for other departments," Tsatsoulis said, including computer science, physics and environmental science.
It will be available to all students and professors who are "involved in sustainable building, sustainable energy."
The facility will cost $1.15 million, which includes higher education assistance funds from the state, operating funds, and donations by Schneider Electric, Acme Brick, Axium Solar, Benchmark Precision Buildings and Nuconsteel. The architect of the project is Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. and the general contractor is Nouveau Construction.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Saturday, and construction is slated to be complete in early 2012.
"I believe UNT has the vision to bring this university to the next level," Tao said.
He said it's a bold investment, and the reason he came to UNT from Florida International University.
"[The facility] is transformable, it's a living lab and it's an integrated dynamic lab," Tao said. "It's very unique."
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is email@example.com .