San Jose State University Solar Library, San Jose, California (1979)
This building, with Dr. Aitken serving as the State designated environmental design consultant to Pfleuger Architects in San Francisco, was the first true "building integrated solar" design in California. Designed to use only environmental energies for all thermal comfort needs, this was also the first State-owned building in California constructed with no mechanical space heating or cooling systems. A 5,000 square foot front-face integrated active solar air heating system provided the heating, while thermal mass and nocturnal ventilation provided the cooling. The solar arrays integrated into the south wall and the downward sloping reflecting glass provided shading for the daylit windows while simultaneously enhancing the solar gain on the collectors (see the reflected strip of sunlight on the collectors in the lower right picture.) Rock bed thermal storage, along with exposed concrete walls and exposed concrete "T" beams in the interior, provided sufficient mass storage and heat transfer capability to support both heating and cooling cycles. Careful simulations had demonstrated that thermal comfort would be maintained even during periods of extended hot or cold weather. But the mechanical engineers chose to alter the design anyway by substituting a hydronic solar energy system for the designed air system, which diminished the quick morning warm-up advantage (the building faces southeast) and fast thermal heating response features of the original design. And "Value Engineering" left the night ventilation fan out entirely (to "save energy and cost" by "not having a fan that would run at night"), which destroyed the natural cooling operation. These two actions caused the completed building to have to be connected to the campus central heating and cooling systems. This showed Dr. Aitken the importance of having architects and engineers on the same page, with all understanding the design principles. Nevertheless, the building, with its favorable shape and orientation, the great amount of thermal mass, the "isolated air" entry, the excellent shading of all windows, and the solar space heating system, operates efficiently.