Is the Complexity Worth It?

Jim Wermes, HDR Architecture
Guy Boyd, Arizona State University

Many of today's laboratories are becoming more complex and complicated to provide better energy performance and flexibility. The integration of daylighting controls, occupancy controls, temperature controls, air quality management and energy management systems provides a vast data set that can be used to squeeze power usage out of laboratory facilities, while still maintaining parameters for safety and occupant comfort.

This presentation will compare and contrast two buildings that followed different paths to achieve similar goals, resulting in different levels of complexity in their operation. The engineers for Arizona State University's (ASU) Biodesign A & B, took a simplified approach to the air management concepts controls and energy performance. The engineers for ASU's ISTB 4, across the street, applied a more complicated approach to similar challenges, in an effort to achieve the university's goal of even greater flexibility in laboratory usage and further reductions in energy use. In this presentation we will look at the two buildings side by side and see if the added complexity provides a higher level of performance and at what cost. Concepts to be reviewed include:

  • Energy usage/cost (by GSF)
  • Complexity indicated by the number of Control Points (by GSF and point type)
  • Development of a standard for measuring complexity: Complexity Factor
  • Simple return on investment for the added energy saving
  • Other metrics, as appropriate.

The exact number of metrics considered and facilities reviewed may be expanded to take advantage of the time available.

Learning Objectives

  • Complexity of a lab, as it relates to operations and maintenance can be measured.
  • The energy performance of a lab may or may not be related to the complexity of the lab.
  • The complexity and performance of ASU ISTB 4 and ASU Biodesign Institute Laboratories.


Jim Wermes is a Principal Mechanical Engineer at HDR whose 40 years of experience has focused on sustainable design. He is considered an expert in the design and construction of sustainable laboratory systems with experience including several LEED Gold institutional facilities for Arizona State University, UC Riverside, University of Arkansas, University of Texas Southwest Medical Center, University of South Florida, Washington University at Saint Louis, University of Waterloo and Utah State University.

Guy Boyd - Biography coming soon.


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