The Energy Technology Center
TCC prepares for next generation of energy workers
March 7, 2014
Rendering of west side of new facility at TCC.
A. Lee Graham
Tarrant County College vows to reinvent energy education for the
modern age, instilling students with alternative energy know-how in what
planners call an unprecedented area resource.
“The Energy Technology Center will be the largest facility of its type
in the nation,” said district Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley, prompting
applause at March 3 groundbreaking ceremonies for the South Campus
“The ETC [Energy Technology Center] will showcase forward-thinking
technologies and concepts,” said Hadley, referring to using exposed
building components as teaching tools.
When open in August 2015, the $33 million resource will allow the campus
to expand its heating, air conditioning and refrigeration technology
programs. But perhaps more importantly, it will offer new curriculum
rooted in geothermal technology, wind generation, solar, and oil and gas
Gathered within the school’s automotive building due to icy weather
outside, faculty, elected officials and students praised the campus’
first building in 40 years. The 87,000-square-foot structure will occupy
land northeast of the automotive building, east of Interstate 20 and
south of Joe B. Rushing Road.
“It is designed to be a living teaching and learning environment,” said Hadley, referring to its unique construction.
Exposed chilled water piping and color-coded labels are intended as
teaching tools, allowing students a real-life view of classroom
The building’s $33 million price tag will be funded over three years
from the renewable and replacement portion of the district’s operating
“This will be a much-needed upgrade,” said district board trustee Bill
Greenhill. “What’s really important for me and the board is it allows us
to expand into these new programs,” said Greenhill, referring to wind
generation, solar energy and oil and gas technology.
Board President Louise Appleman agreed.
“That will be a new arm of it: the oil and gas training. We already do
training in heating and air conditioning, and this will just broaden
what we can provide,” Appleman said.
Though not up to speed on project plans, another area educator said the center’s strengths will transcend the district.
“I don’t know the details, but there is a big need for those things,”
said Ken Morgan, director of Texas Christian University’s Energy
Institute, referring to local resources for energy education.
“Lots of training for the energy industry is needed, and this sounds like a great resource,” Morgan said.
It could foster new education and training partnerships between the colleges, among others, officials from both schools agreed.
“It’s certainly a possibility and wouldn’t be far-fetched at all,” said Peter Jordan, South Campus president. “
What such a collaboration would entail has not been discussed, but
Jordan and Morgan said they would be open to discuss potential
partnerships in the future.
In the meantime, construction is expected to begin in mid-March after
project architect Freese and Nichols Inc. secures a grading permit. That
was expected to occur as early as the week of March 3, according to
Allen McRee, architecture group manager and an associate with the Fort
Worth-based engineering and architectural firm.
Serving as lead contractor is Archer Western Contractors, the
Irving-based operation of Chicago firm Walsh Construction. Serving as
project partner is Carcon Industries of Dallas.
With oil and natural gas drilling ramping up in the Eagle Ford Shale,
among other locations, the timing seems right to boost energy education,
“I think that’s probably right,” McRee said of an energy industry that many believe is revving into gear once again.
District planners hope to match that momentum by pursuing alternative energy; namely, solar power.
“This is our first architectural project [for the district] where we’ve
made use of solar panels,” said McRee, referring to a photovoltaic solar
canopy shading the energy center’s courtyard bridging its two
The solar shade will perform two functions: reduce energy consumption
and shield students from scorching summer heat. Freese and Nichols has
installed such technology in some Tarrant Regional Water District
administrative buildings in north Fort Worth, but not for Tarrant County
“We’ve had smaller projects at Tarrant County College, but not of this magnitude,” McRee said.
The Energy Technology Center promises 10 classrooms, 18 labs and 6,200
square feet of so-called “sticky spaces” that encourage student
interaction and learning.
Also part of the building will be a multipurpose hall able to accommodate up to 150 students.
The facility is designed to achieve LEED Gold designation, meeting
standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in
Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold status, with the ultimate
goal to achieve LEED Platinum certification.
“I can hardly wait to look through the walls that will expose the
color-coded mechanical structure, and to see the use of solar panels and
the other renewable energy strategies,” Appleman said. “It is truly a
green building in every sense of the word.”