Building a valuable partnership with Virginia Tech

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In 2010, students at Virginia Tech (VT) designed and built the LUMENHAUS, a zero-energy home completely powered by the sun. While it was the third solar house built at VT, it was the first to win the Solar Decathlon Europe Competition—an international competition open to universities to “design and build a solar house that is energy independent.” Because of Virginia Tech’s expertise in energy and sustainability, Hourigan Construction contacted them to propose a partnership that would be mutually beneficial.

The Hourigan & VT partnership

Hourigan Construction was preparing for a presentation with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to construct their net-zero environmental center. In exchange for VT’s help with the presentation to acquire the project, Hourigan proposed creating a class at VT for students to be intimately involved with the project itself, if awarded.

Once Hourigan acquired the project for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Environmental Center, Hourigan and VT joined together for a mutually beneficial relationship. Since VT had experience with net-zero energy facilities, Hourigan was able to utilize their knowledge and expertise to plan and design the Center to meet the Living Building Challenge and LEED Platinum requirements.

virginia tech and hourigan construction classes


In exchange, Hourigan and VT developed a series of classes that specifically addressed the sustainable construction of the project. This gave VT graduate students an opportunity to gain real-world experience with virtual construction and sustainability practices on an active job site.

First two semesters at VT: Hands-on virtual construction experience

The VT students had a critical role in the project and received hands-on experience with virtual construction. They actively participated and offered proposed solutions at the weekly M.E.P. subcontractor 3-D model coordination meetings. They also prepared quality control and quality assurance inspection checklists. In addition, the students performed on-site quality control inspections using BIM 360 Field. They performed schedule analysis of the project and proposed resolutions to delays.

Third semester at VT: Measuring for Living Building Challenge certification

With two full semesters of construction sustainability studies now completed for the Brock Environmental Center, the Hourigan / VT partnership will continue this fall by planning and holding a third semester class. The students will be responsible for helping to monitor and analyze the actual commissioning and measurement of the Center’s net-zero operating systems performance.

The Living Building Challenge requires a 12-month measurement period that involves monthly documented measurements of the following systems to verify that the actual energy, water and waste measurements are confirmed to be a net-zero result:

virginia tech and hourigan construcition BIM and virtual construction

Virginia Tech students at the Brock Environmental Center job site.

– Mechanical
– Electrical
– Plumbing
– Photovoltaic
– Wind Turbine
– Geothermal
– Composting
– Rainwater Collection
– Grey Water Treatment
– Water Purification
– Daylighting and Ventilation Systems

The measurement period will start in September 2014. Virginia Tech students will visit the job site on a monthly basis to observe and document the measurements that are taken by the commissioning agents.  They will then perform regular trend analysis on the monthly performance measurements in order to determine if the facility as a whole will pass the Living Building Challenge net-zero equation requirements.

In addition, the students will document the following occupant performance requirements:

– Manually controlled natural ventilation system – allows the HVAC system to shut down during mild outside ambient conditions

– Manually controlled lighting system – can be turned off when exterior ambient light is ample enough to perform daily activities

All of the above collected data will be put into a matrix that will allow analysis of the Center’s success in achieving the Living Building Challenge certification.  The project team will note any shortfalls where there might be a need of additional capacity in order to meet the requirements.

Dedicated to training the next generation of the industry

This final semester of construction sustainability study at Virginia Tech will be completed by December 2014, but it’s only the beginning of a long partnership between Hourigan Construction and Virginia Tech as they continue to train and educate the future of the construction industry. Hourigan is dedicated to staying at the forefront of technology and invested in helping students learn the latest trends in the construction industry.

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