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A Model of Energy-Efficient Design

Photo of the Education Center trombe wall.

The Education Center itself is an exhibit of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Passive solar energy features, energy-efficient lighting, an energy management system and other strategies help cut energy costs and optimize building performance.


An innovative Trombe wall—the building's most striking architectural feature—lights and heats the exhibit hall. The huge, undulating Trombe wall has five sections, each angled in a "V" shape. Windows on the south side of the "V" provide natural daylighting and early morning heat. Horizontal beams in front of the windows prevent direct sunlight from entering during the summer.

On the other side of the "V" is a thick concrete wall coated with black paint and faced with glass. A small airspace separates the wall from the glass. Direct solar radiation is absorbed by the wall, trapped by the glass and conducted inward to gradually heat the exhibit hall later in the day.

Efficient Lighting

Daylighting provides much of the lighting for the facility, particularly in the exhibit hall. Many types and styles of energy-efficient lights fill in where the sun's light is insufficient. Sensors turn lights on and off to further conserve energy.

Exterior Insulation

The Education Center's exterior walls contain an insulation system that is designed to help improve the building's energy performance. During the summer, the insulation reduces the amount of heat entering the building. In cooler months, the insulation prevents interior heat from escaping. The insulation system consists of a layer of synthetic stucco on the outside, 4 inches of rigid insulation and 8 inches of decorative concrete block for an R-value of 13 in the walls.


The building's direct evaporative cooling system takes advantage of Colorado's typically dry climate. An air conditioning system provides additional cooling when needed, and variable-speed fans control the amount of cool air directed through the building.

Energy Management System

A computer monitors temperature, humidity and occupancy to determine the most efficient method for maintaining appropriate levels in occupied space. The system also records and monitors building performance.

Wind-Powered Electricity

The Education Center's entire electric load of approximately 4,000 kilowatt hours per month comes from the Windsource program of the local utility, Xcel Energy of Colorado. Large wind turbines sited near the Wyoming border generate the Windsource electricity.