Ford Field announced as 2023 Innovative Project 2nd Place Winner

The Innovative Project Award is designed to honor projects that break the mold of standard building construction, design, and operations. The projects in question exemplify innovation and astute practices that reflect the goals of the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan (USGBC-WM)’s programs. The Innovative Project winner this year was chosen in a close vote between our Board of Directors and Staff. The USGBC-WM was excited to announce Ford Field as the second-place winner for their UV Light System Study.

The goal of this project was to prove the capabilities of a properly designed UV light system, particularly in the application of air handling systems. 

The facility team at Ford Field has an annual coil cleaning process and thus the coil visibly looks clean: however, biofilm growth is not visible as it is microscopic. When growth becomes visible, coil fouling is significant and the benefits of UV treatment are amplified. Condensation on cooling coils increases particulate build-up by a factor of 50% to 260%, which can result in a significant loss in energy efficiency. Therefore, Ford Field installed a complete set of sensors to monitor performance parameters prior to activating the UV system to establish the baseline performance. Once sufficient data was collected, the UV system was activated. The data continues to be monitored and analyzed

Ford Field has undertaken this project with Lawrence Technological University (LTU) who is serving as the independent analysis and evaluation piece of this study. The assistant professor of Civil and Architectural Engineering, Dr. Deokoh Woo, has conducted on-site visits, verification of UV system installation per design specifications, AHU performance test review, and is analyzing the data to provide the results. Dr. Woo stated “we feel that no other solution on the market delivers the broad range of benefits while producing an ROI of around 2 years or less. This solution is a win for the facility and a win for the community as it addresses carbon reduction and indoor air quality,” stated a representative from the project team.

With this project, the team sought to establish the ability of UV light to clean the cooling coil and thus reduce energy consumption. Additionally, they held a goal to establish that the extent of energy savings is related to the average UV intensity delivered to the coil. Their assumptions were, based on the established fluence tables and knowledge of how light propagates through narrow fin openings, that a higher-level intensity will outperform lower-level intensity UV systems.

Project results to date support this as they have outperformed many of the past research that used very low levels of UV. The 18% increase in UA value (heat conductance capacity) that has been achieved to date points to this. This is a very high increase in UA value signifying that the energy savings will be significant. This is also only one part of the energy savings. The fan energy savings are yet to be calculated.

The application of UV in air handling equipment provides a wide array of benefits such as:

  • Energy Savings (from cooling coil and fan)
  • Automating Coil Cleaning 
    • Labor Savings
    • Conserve Water
    • Avoidance of Chemical Use
  • Significantly Improved Indoor Air Quality
  • Carbon Reduction (with reduced electricity consumption)

UV system design is critical to achieve coil cleaning, energy savings, and air disinfection. The project team saw a correlation in existing research that points to lower levels of energy savings when using low levels of UV intensity and higher levels of energy savings at high levels of UV intensity. The UV fluence or dosage needed to disable various pathogens at various levels of disinfection (logarithmic reduction) are established and thus calculations can be made to determine with a good deal of accuracy as to the "fly by" disinfection rate of a host of pathogens based on air velocity, expose time, and the UV intensity level.

Two key components are needed for an effective UV system; 1. The right product and 2. Proper Design. The output or intensity (μw/cm^2) produced per watt of energy differs greatly among all the different makes of UV products. This project design takes into account multiple factors, including a full understanding of how UV light disables various pathogens and how light propagates through a coil must be understood, as well as the importance of proper operating conditions to achieve the highest and best outcome. 

A wide range of metrics are being monitored within the air handler to determine the energy savings at the AHU level. The team installed temperature and humidity sensors upstream and downstream of the cooling coil, temperature sensors measuring the inlet and outlet temperatures of the chilled water for the cooling coil, air velocity sensor downstream of the cooling coil, pressure differential sensor across the cooling coil, and a sensor to measure fan energy usage.

Lawrence Tech University's research team is conducting the data analysis and calculations to derive the energy savings at the AHU level. Furthermore, they are projecting what the energy savings would be if all AHUs were to be retrofitted with UV as this would drive savings at the chiller level. The energy savings component provides a monetary payback to the facility making this investment attractive. This is one of two benefits that provide a direct monetary benefit as viewed by facility owners.

In terms of coil cleaning, traditional coil cleaning involves the use of a chemical agent to loosen the buildup on the coils and then is washed down with water. By utilizing UV for coil cleaning, the facility can now avoid using harsh chemicals and eliminate the use of fresh water. UV is the only peer-reviewed technology with decades of proven efficacy for air disinfection. The facility typically runs disinfection calculations for (8) common pathogens and provides a percentage disinfection rate on one pass of air through the UV system. This UV solution reduces the KWH consumption of the HVAC system and thus lowers the carbon footprint. Our UV solution provides rapid paybacks of less than 3 years on energy savings alone. 

There are several community level benefits this UV solution provides. First, it reduces the load on the electrical grid which frees up power for other uses such as EV vehicle charging. Second, the environment benefits from the carbon reduction, elimination of water use, and the elimination of the use of harmful chemicals to clean the cooling coils. Third, indoor air quality is improved creating healthy building environments for the visitors of the building.

The USGBC-WM Leadership Awards promote outstanding green building initiatives by recognizing projects, organizations, and people who have made extraordinary contributions to achieving healthy, energy-efficient green buildings in the state of Michigan.

“Michigan is one of the top 5 states for clean energy commitments, number two in the country in drawing down federal funding for climate and clean energy, and number one in the Midwest for clean energy jobs, clean energy growing twice as fast as the overall economy,” said Cheri Holman, Executive Director of USGBC-WM. “These investments by the federal government, concrete action from the state, and the  collaboration inside our community has energized me like never before.”

Ford Field was honored at our 2023 Annual Party & Leadership Awards Ceremony on December 5, 2023. Hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan, the evening event was held in the Ballroom at the LEED-certified CityFlatsHotel located in downtown Grand Rapids. The program included a keynote address by Dr. Brandy Brown, Chief Innovation Officer of Walker-Miller Energy Services, an Awards Ceremony, and the celebration of this year’s achievements. 

To learn more about the event and to read our 2023 Annual Report visit our Annual Party & Leadership Awards Ceremony page.