FORT WORTH — Tarrant County College officials celebrated the groundbreaking of its $30 million Energy Technology Center on Monday, the first new building at the South Campus in four decades.A mound of dirt was moved inside the campus’ automotive garage because below-freezing temperatures left attendees a little too cold to shovel dirt that will soon be topped with an 87,000-square-foot sustainable Energy Technology Center. The center, described as a premier training institution for commercial and industrial air-conditioning technicians, is slated to open in August 2015 and will offer expanded courses offerings, school officials said.“It will be the largest facility of its type in the nation,” TCC Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley said. The South Campus is near Interstate 20 and Campus Drive in south Fort Worth.TCC will add six certificates and associates in applied science degrees in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC); renewable energy, oil and gas production, and industrial technology, said Jeffrey Rector, department chairman for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration.Additional training opportunities have already attracted former students who are considering returning to school to learn new technology, said Andrew Rhinefort, an air conditioning and refrigeration technology instructor.Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price commended the two-year institution for the value it brings to the community and added that she and her three children all took courses at TCC at some point.“So many young folks have to forgo college or come out carrying a sizable debt load,” Price said. “These associates technology degrees allow them to work while continuing their education.” Price said that TCC recently committed to the city’s Better Buildings Challenge to make commercial and industrial buildings more efficient by 2020, save more than $40 billion annually for U.S. organizations and create American jobs.One unusual architectural feature will be that the center will not have any ceilings, leaving exposed mechanical ductwork, chilled water piping and color-coded labels so students can identify what they are learning about in a real-life setting, Chadwell said. The two-building center will be connected with a courtyard terrace and solar panel-lined trellis. Managing architect Robert Pence, president and CEO of Freese & Nichols, designed the center after Tarrant County College trustees approved a $2.8 million contract for the architecture and engineering design services during a Jan. 19, 2012, meeting.The center is designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold status, and ultimately Platinum. The push to achieve a Platinum LEED status won’t be easy and typically takes the U.S. Green Building Council six months after construction to determine, said Kirby Chadwell, director of facilities planning and development at TCC.The science building at TCC Southeast is currently the highest rated at Gold.
Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792 Twitter:@MonicaNagyFWST