Lombardo Welcome Center

Lombardo Welcome Center

Millersville's First Net Zero Energy Building

The Lombardo Welcome Center will be Millersville’s first Net-Zero Energy Building. Scheduled to be opened in January of 2018, the 13,600 square foot facility will stand as a clear testament of Millersville’s commitment to sustainability and to the goal of pursuing carbon neutrality by 2040.

Achieving Net Zero Energy

Buildings use energy to power lights, provide heat and air conditioning, and to run appliances, computers, and other devices. Typically, buildings pull most of that energy from the electricity grid, but net zero energy buildings generate their own energy - as much as they need to power their systems and devices on balance over the course of the year.  The Lombardo Welcome Center will generate energy using the sun above and the ground below.

Energy from Above: Photovoltaics

Photovolatic (PV) panels convert the sun's energy directly into electricity using semiconductor materials. The Lombardo Welcome Center will have three types of PV panels, roof-mount, ground-mount, and building-integrated PV.  The largest of these will be a roof-mount PV array covering the majority of the Lombardo Welcome Center's roof.  In total the roof array is expected to generate about 175,000 kWh of electricity annually.  That should be enough to meet all of the building's electricity needs, but as an educational building the Lombardo Center also provides an opportunity to demonstrate other technologies.  That includes a ground mount array located behind the building, allowing students and other curious individuals to get a close look at the technology.  The ground-mount array will have a dual-axis tracker allowing it to follow the sun over the course of the day. THe ground-mount array should generate about 11,000 kWh of electricity annually.  Finally, the Lombardo Center will have a building-integrated PV along the back wall of the building. As the name implies, building-integrated PV integrates the PV system directly into the building materials, in this case a rear curtain wall. The building-integrated PV is expected to generate about 8,000 kWh of electricity annually.  The ground mount and building-integrated PV systems provide a broader understanding of available technologies while producing additional electricity in case the building needs it or perhaps even making it a net positive energy building.

Millersville Sustainability Manager, Chris Steuer, discusses the Lombardo Welcome Center's PV panels.

Energy from Below: Geothermal Heat Pumps


Geothermal heat pumps use a physical property of the earth to their advantage. While Pennsylvania outside air temperatures can swing from below 0 to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of the year, the temperature just a few feet underground stays a relatively constant 54 degrees.  That means that in the summer the ground is cooler than the air and during the winter the ground is probably warmer than the air. A geothermal heating system takes advantage of this by running pipes filled with an antifreeze solution through the ground to pick up heat from the relatively warmer ground during th

e cold winter months or dump heat from the relatively cooler ground during the hot summer months. This heat exchange between the ground and the building means that the building's heat pump needs to do less work (consume less energy) to bring the outside air to a comfortable indoor temperature.

The Lombardo Welcome Center has a vertical loop geothermal heat system that consists of 20 wells located underground in the rear of the building. The above image shows pipe being run through one of the 20 wells. 

Energy Efficiency

While PV and geothermal systems get a lot of attention, the real workhourse of many net zero energy buildings is energy efficiency.  The Lombardo Welcome Center for example, is expected to be about 60 percent more energy efficient than the average building on Millersville's campus. From LED lighting, to radiant floor heating, to R38 insulation and triple pane windows, the architects took every opportunity to squeeze a little more energy-saving potential into the Lombardo Center's design.