Case Studies

Hickory Hall

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Location: Emory, Virginia
Size: 40,000 sq. ft.

Project Highlights:
Largest US Passivhaus Building
61 Units, 117 Beds
PHIUS Certified
LEED Certified (Pending)
Geothermal Heating, Cooling and DHW

Energy Use:
74% Below Code (predicted)

Hickory Hall, the new 40,000 square foot dormitory at Emory and Henry College in Emory, Virginia, demonstrates the promise of large-scale, high performance building for green school construction.

Like its sister building, Elm Hall, Hickory Hall houses 61 units with 117 beds in a neocolonial structure that fits neatly within its campus context.  But unlike the conventionally-built Elm Hall, Hickory is a Passivhaus (aka “Passive House”) structure, one of the first Passivhaus dorms in North America.  Thanks to its high performance building envelope and super-efficient energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system, Hickory offers revolutionary energy efficiency (energy use is 74% below code and 60% less than at Elm), thermal comfort, and a constant supply of clean, fresh air.

Implications for cost? Hickory Hall was less expensive to build ($118.75/SF) than the Elm Hall ($125/SF).

How did we accomplish this?  By deploying 21st century building science expertise in an integrated process with the project team.  We worked closely with the project architect to incorporate an airtight, advanced building envelope that respected the architectural integrity of the original design.  We then did the energy modeling, engineering, construction oversight, testing and envelope commissioning to ensure the successful execution of all construction details.

By guaranteeing the construction quality of Hickory Hall we realized big savings in mechanical systems.  Engineering for the conventional Elm Hall put cooling load at 32 tons.  And because construction quality is not typically guaranteed, the project engineer built a large “safety factor” into his design, more than doubling the capacity of the specified mechanical equipment to 68 tons.  At Hickory Hall, the advanced building envelope brought cooling load down to just 14 tons, and because we ensure construction quality, there was no need to oversize expensive equipment.  As a result, Hickory’s mechanical systems are less than one quarter the size of Elm’s.

Hickory Hall provides a better, more healthful experience for students at lower construction cost and just a fraction of the operational energy costs of its Elm Hall counterpart.  The building’s high quality, airtight construction makes the structure extremely durable compared to leaky conventional buildings.  And the ecological footprint of Hickory is tiny.

Passiv Science in action.

Project Stats

Location: Emory, Virginia
Size: 40,000 sq. ft.

Project Highlights:
Largest US Passivhaus Building
61 Units, 117 Beds
PHIUS Certified
LEED Certified (Pending)
Geothermal Heating, Cooling and DHW

Energy Use:
74% Below Code (predicted)