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Building teaching opportunities into energy efficiency renovations

Building teaching opportunities into energy efficiency renovations

A showcase project to reduce an old school building's energy consumption is a goldmine of teaching opportunities for engineering students

The latest in energy efficient refurbishment is literally coming into the classroom for engineering students in the Higher Education Institution of the Province of Liège, in Belgium. In September 2016, their building will be retrofitted with the latest energy efficient technologies, as part of the EU-funded BRICKER project. This will help showcase how reducing energy consumption contributes to cut bills. Engineering lecturer at the institution, Gabrielle Masy explains how she is using the teaching potential of the project to train her engineering students in topics ranging from technical presentation to innovations in civil engineering and energy efficient buildings.

How have you involved your students in the project so far?
I wanted my students to be involved from the beginning. The integration of the project with my teaching is mainly at the level of Masters’ students, on the topic of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. I asked them to look at the project files and documents to make a technical presentation. There were four teams, each with four students. And they made a presentation in English on technical aspects of the project such as ventilation, biomass heating and insulation. The presentation was intended to be presented to Dutch speaking students from Antwerp. Its purpose was to improve their use of English for technical presentations. We did this exercise last year. But this year, it was not possible because the students from Antwerp did not study the relevant module. Each year I try to do something new. 

Why is it important for your students to be able to communicate in technical English?
In our field, more and more information is in English. All the rules, standards and technical specifications for equipment are in English. Also there is a lot of research and improvement in Asian countries like China. In all these countries the only language you can communicate in is English. So, it is important to have some basic technical vocabulary. Of course, it is not always easy for students to speak English. But presentations are easier because they have their slides, giving some structure.

How does such an approach of providing direct access to an ongoing high‑tech research project benefit your students?
For the students it is a matter of being aware of new technologies. In the field of HVAC a lot of technologies are evolving from one year to another, as buildings become more and more energy efficient. Insulation is improving each year, rules are becoming more demanding and the criteria for buildings regarding heat loss are becoming more and more severe. So it is important to be aware of improvements and evolution of regulation and technology related to HVAC. For me and the students, it is really important to be informed about the latest technologies today. This is because they are the technologies that will be implemented tomorrow.

What are your future plans for integrating the project with teaching engineering students?
It is interesting for the students to see this kind of installation and the improvement it can bring. The building is very old and not energy efficient at all. It is obvious that if you apply an energy-saving technology to this building you will get an improvement. The students will be able to follow the monitoring of the installation. They will allow them to analyse the results and assess the improvement of energy efficiency of the building. The project is also interesting for undergraduates because they can look at the installation, describe it, evaluate it. It is research, but also implementation.

Here you can download the presentations elaborated by the students of the Buildings and HVAC Systems Master Course at the Master School of Province de Liège:

If you have questions for Gabrielle Masy click here



by Fiona Dunlevy