ASHRAE Students Building Energy Efficient 'Shacks'

April 5, 2012
24 sq.ft. structures will be used to demonstrate renewable and HVAC technologies

Design and construction of a “shack” to demonstrate renewable and HVAC technologies, including solar thermal heating, photovoltaic power generation, high efficiency and green insulation options and wood pellet stoves, is being developed by undergraduate students in an ASHRAE Undergraduate Senior Project Grant.

This year, 22 schools from around the world were awarded grants. The grants, totaling some $100,000, are awarded by ASHRAE to colleges and universities worldwide to promote the study and teaching of HVAC&R, encouraging senior undergraduate students to pursue related careers.

The grants are used to design and construct projects, such as Minnesota State University – Mankato’s proposal to design and construct a renewable and HVAC technologies test-bed “shack.”

“In the spirit of the Solar Decathlon and the movement toward ‘tiny homes,’ this project aims to design and build a structure of some 24 square feet that can be used to demonstrate renewable and HVAC technologies,” Patrick Tebbe, faculty advisor at Minnesota State University – Mankato, said. “The ‘shack’ will be designed to accommodate a range of technologies for demonstration and testing in the classroom and research projects.” Given the university is located in the heart of ice fishing territory, the shack design will be loosely based on typical ice fishing huts or shacks. The inclusion of ice fishing creates an immediate engagement for both students and the public, according to Tebbe. He said the students hope this will generate interest in energy efficiency and sustainable design topics beyond upper level engineering courses.

The shack also will be portable (most likely constructed on a sled) so it could be moved to test sites, high schools, open houses, etc., allowing for greater demonstration. It also could be adapted for summer applications. The project will incorporate a flat plate solar collector to supplement interior heating, testing of various wood and pellet fueled stoves and weather stations from previous solar research. The construction materials likely will be supplemented with recycled and reused materials found locally.