Stanford University is lowering its carbon footprint by reducing the amount of greenhouse gas it introduces into the environment. With the opening of the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building, the university is demonstrating its commitment to creating a sustainable, environmentally friendly campus.

Dubbed Y2E2, the building is named after the co-founder of Yahoo! and his wife who contributed $50 million toward the project. Working with a design team from BOORA Architects of Portland, Oregon and Arup, an international consulting firm that provides planning, engineering, and project management services, Ruskin provided key components of the passive air management system that takes advantage of one of nature’s basic laws – hot air rises, cold air drops.

 “Through a creative use of stacked louvers in the atriums, we’re able to provide a system that automatically delivers cool air throughout the day while minimizing energy consumption,” said Tom Edwards, Ruskin president.

Known as the “lungs of the building” each of the four atriums rises up 89 ft – 24 ft and 6 in. above the roof. At night, when the outside air drops to around 60°F, the louvers open. At the same time a computer analyzes the indoor air temperature and determines which windows within the building to open. Then, like a giant siphon, the louvers above each atrium pull the warm air up and discharge it out of the building.

In an interview with KGO-TV, Dick Luthy, Stanford civil and environmental engineer chairman, said that process “will let the building naturally breathe and cool down.” This passive cooling system is expected to significantly reduce the building’s energy. In total, the building’s design should provide a 50% reduction in resource usage.

In order to meet Stanford’s interest in creating a modern building yet retain the classic form of the other structures on the campus, Ruskin provided combination louvers faced with Reliable atrium grills. Combination louvers combine the aesthetic appearance of stationary louvers with positive airflow shutoff capabilities.

In addition, Ruskin control and combination fire/smoke dampers with airfoil blades completed the design to ensure occupant comfort and life safety with low airflow resistance in the open position and Class I ultra low leakage in the full closed position. “The creation of this building was truly a collaborative effort where experts from a variety of disciplines came together and produced something uniquely special,” said Edwards.

While the impact of this unique design will be felt daily by those who use the building, the far-reaching implications exceed anything that could be measured on a day-to-day basis. “We felt this was one of the best investments that we could make for the next generation, and our children,” said Yamazaki while standing in one of the trademark atriums during the building’s dedication. “For our children to be able to enjoy and experience what we’ve been blessed with, we cannot afford not to do something today.”

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