Module 4: Energy and Atmosphere

Module 4: Energy and Atmosphere

Authored by EcoRise

Essential questions: 
How do people use energy in buildings and what factors impact how much energy buildings use?
What is “energy demand” and why is reducing it a challenge?
What are several concrete strategies for reducing energy demand?
How can reducing energy help the environment?
What is passive design, and how can it be added to a building to create a sustainable energy system?
What are examples of effective and ineffective passive design?
How can passive design be integrated with active design to create a sustainable energy system?
What is a “building envelope,” and what are key components?
What are some reliable ways to detect and fix air leaks in a building?
What are some examples of energy-efficient technologies?
What is net-zero energy and what are some strategies for achieving net zero in a building design or city?
How can building energy management systems help improve energy efficiency?
What factors impact a building’s energy performance and how can those problems be prevented or resolved?
What is the building commissioning process and why is it important in LEED buildings?

LESSON 4.1: Envisioning Energy in Buildings
(Estimated time needed: Three 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students examine how buildings commonly use energy, particularly to regulate temperature and provide electricity, and where this energy comes from. They tour their school building to examine different ways energy is used within the building. Then they research several impacts that using that energy has on the environment, including climate change, acid precipitation, and ozone depletion. Students form groups to create mini-lessons on five key areas of environmental impact and then teach their peers about the impact. Throughout the lesson, students examine how human behavior and green building can effectively reduce energy consumption in buildings and, thus, the use of fossil fuels.

LESSON 4.2: Harvesting Free Energy
(Estimated time needed: Three 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students investigate how passive design strategies, such as the use of passive solar, thermal mass, daylighting, and natural ventilation, can be used in a building to harvest “free” energy and conserve energy. First, they learn how key strategies can be integrated in a heating and cooling system for all seasons. Then they view photographs of actual buildings to evaluate the effectiveness of their passive design. Students then apply what they learn by designing, building, and testing a model house that incorporates passive design strategies.

LESSON 4.3: Using Energy-Smart Designs
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students look at how energy-smart building designs include a tight building envelope. Students learn that a building envelope includes the parts of a building that separate the interior from the exterior. They view thermal images to explore common weak spots in the building envelope, conduct research to learn about strategies for addressing those weak spots, and then revisit the thermal images to share those strategies. Students consolidate what they learn by creating an infographic and by analyzing a video of a net-zero LEED platinum building.

LESSON 4.4: Energy-Efficient Technologies
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions plus at-home research)
In this lesson, students examine technologies that can be used to minimize building energy needs for credits in the LEED Energy and Atmosphere Credit Category. Students play a card game to learn about energy-efficient technologies related to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting, and plug-in electrical uses. They also identify technologies and strategies that affect the efficiency of the entire building energy management system. They conduct research to explore in-depth how technologies, such as energy recovery ventilation systems, automatic sensors, smart-home technology, and the ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager®, make buildings more sustainable. This lesson heightens student awareness of how sustainable choices in technology can affect personal comfort in the built environment as well as reduce the building’s environmental impact.

LESSON 4.5: Seeking Net Zero
(Estimated time needed: Three 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students explore the fact that many buildings today primarily use nonrenewable energy resources over renewable energy sources. Students examine various energy sources and make a case for the use of renewable energy as the primary source of power for the built environment. Students also examine case studies of net-zero and carbon-negative design practices in buildings and cities. Then they collaborate to design a net-zero building for the future.

LESSON 4.6: Keeping Track
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions)
In this lesson, students consider factors that can impact a building’s energy performance. They analyze energy-related problems that might occur and discuss ways to prevent and resolve those problems. Students then explore how the building commissioning process can help ensure that building projects are designed and executed to meet stated goals. They discuss the different tasks of a Commissioning Agent as a building is designed, built, and occupied. Finally, they consider what might motivate building occupants to adopt more energy-conservation practices, and they share their ideas in the form of an energy-conservation campaign for a hypothetical business.

Supplementary References
Every LEED Prep lesson includes references in the Assess section to the GBES LEED v4 Green Associate Exam Preparation Study Guide (when relevant), the LEED Green Associate Candidate Handbook (for Task and Knowledge Domains), and LEED Impact Categories. Those resources are included here, along with other references students may find helpful in preparing for the LEED Green Associate Exam.