Artist rendering of TxAire Test Homes
An interesting research project is taking place at the University of Texas at Tyler. The Texas Allergy, Indoor Environment and Energy (TxAIRE) Institute has built two identical test homes on campus using different construction techniques. TxAIRE was created to help identify, demonstrate and evaluate products that improve the energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality of buildings. More energy efficient and healthier buildings are the two primary elements of the rapidly expanding “green building” market.
The two test homes make it possible to complete full testing and analyses of different building components used in the building process. The mechanical systems are fully instrumented and include multiple systems to facilitate comparison of performance. Professor Roy Crawford, Ph.D. and director of research and technology development at TxAIRE, says the houses offer a tremendous opportunity to study energy efficiency products.
Uponor’s Fire Safety System Installed in TxAIRE Home
Uponor’s fire safety system, called AquaSAFE™, was installed in one of the homes while a competitor’s product was installed in the other home. AquaSAFE is a multipurpose system that combines the fire sprinklers with the home’s potable water. The competitive product is a passive purge multipurpose system that connects a single toilet to a separate potable-water system. The benefits of the Uponor system is that there is a reduction in material and labor when integrating the potable water with the sprinkler loop. The other product is a passive purge system with a separate potable-water manifold that runs the sprinkler and the potable loops separately (except for one toilet). Ultimately, this uses more material and requires more labor. In addition, since Uponor’s system has more potable lines connected to the system, it eliminates stagnancy issues.
Pyramid Homes, located in Tyler, is the building contractor, and owner Anwar Khalifa was the area’s first certified green professional. “It is very important for us to find new products and innovative installation techniques that align with our green building philosophy,” Khalifa says. “Uponor has a very good sustainable product that also helps us save money. Overall, we liked the system for the way it installs using fewer connections and less tubing and therefore allowing for sustainability and long-term savings.”
Less Pipe, Fewer Fittings, Easy Installation
Sean O’Keefe, superintendent with Pyramid Homes, oversaw the installation of the two different fire sprinkler methods. “Being a green builder, it is important to reduce the amount of pipe that we use during installation. Uponor’s system used less pipe than the other company and this reduces the overall energy consumption during the water-heating process. Also, it’ll decrease the amount of water flow and therefore decrease the energy cost to the homebuyer,” he says.
Both the plumbing installer and the fire sprinkler installer agree that Uponor’s fire safety installation was an easier system to install than the competitive product – especially when it came to installing the fittings. “Due to the design of the system, the other company required two guys to install where Uponor’s system only needs one person,” O’Keefe says.
Chris Adee of RUDD Fire Protection, a local company, checked the two systems and preferred Uponor’s AquaSAFE. Adee is a NICET 2 designer and said he was pleasantly surprised to see that all of Uponor’s layout and calculations were correct. “I received a great set of plans from Uponor to work from,” he said, “and the design fees were reasonable. Many companies don’t offer design services, making it more complicated for the contractors to install a solid system.”
In the end, the research going into the two TxAIRE houses on the University of Texas campus will benefit homeowners and builders by accelerating the application of the newest products and technologies for sustainable building methods.