Since the primary function of the AJLC is education, designing feedback that provides regular occupants and visitors with easily accessible real-time information on ecological performance has been a top priority. An important goal was to make the flows of energy and cycles of matter between the built and natural environments visible and easy to interpret. The premise of this work is that real-time feedback on ecological performance increases awareness, connectedness, and motivation to act. New feedback of this type may be a necessary prerequisite for facilitating a more sustainable relationship between humans, technology, and the natural world.
During the first five years following completion of the facility students, faculty and collaborators from the National Renewable Energy Lab installed over 150 environmental sensors throughout the building and landscape that monitor everything from production and consumption of electricity to water use in the landscape and the metabolic activity of the Living Machine. No other academic building and landscape had been instrumented and monitored to this extent. Data collected from the monitoring system is rendered into graphical form and displayed on a monitor in the building’s atrium and here on this website.
The AJLC incorporates, and has the potential to add, a wide variety of interacting biological and mechanical feedback mechanisms to enhance performance and educational value.
A programmable logic computer monitors and regulates the building’s mechanical system. For instance, each of the classrooms is equipped with a carbon dioxide sensor that essentially monitors the degree of human occupancy. There are a variety of ways to integrate carbon dioxide data into the control system in order to provide needed fresh air while minimizing energy costs associated with heating and delivering this air. Optimizing the control logic for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system during all four seasons is therefore critical.