The Tyson campus is composed of three main buildings: the headquarters (HQ), the laboratory, and the Living Learning Center (LLC). The LLC was primarily built to serve as classroom space at the Tyson campus and was designed to meet Living Building Challenge standards, the most stringent green building standards that exist. These standards require that a building produces all of its own energy, harvests all of its water, and produces zero waste. The 20.3 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) array on the roof of the LLC generates all of the power needed by the facility. Since the building is still tied to the utility grid, it feeds back a portion of what it generates, while taking some energy from the grid when the solar array cannot meet demand. Thus, the LLC is considered a “net-zero energy” building. Additionally, a 50 kW solar array is installed to power the lab and headquarters building. 

Past Student Projects

Several student-led projects have been conducted at Tyson with the goal of energy conservation and sustainable living. One of Tyson’s long-term goals is to have their entire campus at net-zero energy. A project conducted last semester by a group from the Sustainability Exchange course focused on how Tyson could theoretically become a net-zero campus through energy efficiency upgrades, additional solar capacity, and the use of microgrids on a building- or campus-wide scale. While several ideas were proposed, many were cost-prohibitive and not implemented. 

 WashU Office of Sustainability

Another project conducted over the past year by students in Washington University’s School of Architecture aimed to build a net-zero energy building on Tyson’s campus similar to the LLC. This project was for the Solar Decathlon, a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. WashU’s Solar Decathlon team designed the CRETE House, a residential unit that was to be permanently installed at the Tyson Research Center. After competing in the Solar Decathlon, the project was not completed and materials, including an array of 31 Sunpower panels and a Tesla Powerwall, were left in possession of Tyson.

WashU CRETE House Project