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Applying 3A Molecular Sieve Total Energy Recovery Wheels to Laboratory Environments

Michael J. Dausch, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
John Fischer, SEMCO Inc.
Duane S. Pinnix, RMF Engineering, Inc.


To demonstrate the benefits recognized by research facilities designed to incorporate a total energy recovery wheel technology that utilizes a 3 angstrom molecular sieve desiccant coating. The presentation will document the benefits experienced by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine at a major research facility that has been operational for more than 12 years. The documented energy recovery efficiency, estimated energy savings, actual chiller and boiler capacity reduction and "first cost" economics will be presented and discussed. In addition, the results of air samples collected from the laboratory exhaust, fresh air intake and supply air leaving the total energy recovery wheel and delivered to the space will be shown to document that the recovery benefits have been recognized by the facility without compromising the safety of the building's occupants.


The energy savings over the past 12 years have been very significant. The first cost economics were also very attractive. The system reliability has been excellent over the first 12 years of operation and little or no loss in recovery efficiency has been recognized over that time period. Actual air quality samples will show the facility to have an exceptional indoor air quality, and that the recovery wheel technology does not transfer a significant amount of the exhaust air contaminants back to the indoor air environment.

To allow ability to track performance and to further improve the energy efficiency of the building, an engineering study is currently underway to convert the pneumatic controlled constant volume airflow system to an electronic variable airflow system. The digital controls will reduce overall airflows thus saving fan horsepower and air conditioning costs, provide air where needed to meet variable loads, and report back to a central maintenance computer system

Labs21 Connection:

Minimize overall environmental impacts by improving energy efficiency; protect occupant safety; optimize whole building efficiency on a life-cycle basis; establish goals, track performance, and share results for continuous improvement.


Michael Dausch has 14 years of engineering project management experience for institutional, research and development facilities, with the past nine of those years at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. As the Director of Design and Construction and as a Project Manager representing the University, he has worked to coordinate the program requirements with the building systems, while minimizing lifecycle energy, operating, and maintenance costs. Mr. Dausch is responsible for meeting the program requirements, while completing projects on schedule and within budget.

Mr. Dausch is the Project Manager for a 370,000 GSF laboratory research building currently under construction, which will utilize heat wheel technology and variable air volume distribution to reduce energy consumption. The JHU School of Medicine has utilized heat wheels in two previous research buildings over the past 13 years, totaling approximately 640,000 GSF. In the design development stage, Mr. Dausch reviews system concepts such as heat recovery and air distribution control schemes with the design team, the JHU Safety Office, and the JHU Maintenance and Operations Office.

Mr. Dausch prepares and is responsible for controlling the five-year capital projects budget of The JHU School of Medicine, including both new construction and renovation projects. The School of Medicine will be starting construction in the spring of 2003 on another research building utilizing heat wheels and VAV distribution. Similar systems are also currently under review on recommissioning projects in several older buildings on campus. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Clemson University.

John Fischer has 25 years of experience in the field of outdoor air preconditioning equipment and systems design, specifically those involving total energy and active desiccant dehumidification wheel components. He is the patent holder for the SEMCO total energy recovery wheel that utilizes a 3 angstrom molecular sieve to limit the transfer of airborne contaminants encountered in laboratory exhaust applications. Over the years this patented product has been successfully applied to many major research laboratory and hospital facilities.

John has received five patents and is currently directing SEMCO's Research and Development program, involving products that utilize advanced desiccant and adsorbent materials to remove moisture, chemical and biological contaminants from air streams encountered in laboratory, institutional and commercial environments. Mr. Fischer has authored numerous technical and research papers. He has a degree in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

Duane Pinnix has 27 years of engineering experience for institutional, healthcare and research/development facilities. He is a specialist in the HVAC field and has a keen understanding of how systems integrate with buildings to meet program requirements while optimizing energy efficiency. He develops the detailed MEP needs for users and the design criteria for which the building will operate. Mr. Pinnix performs significant quantitative and qualitative system analysis to justify the optimal HVAC system selection for each project.

Mr. Pinnix has been the Principal Engineer for many laboratory projects where heat wheel technology has been employed to reduce energy consumption. In the development stage of a building, Mr. Pinnix analyzes numerous system approaches including the various heat recovery technologies in conjunction with both constant and variable air volume distribution. He identifies the long-term safety implications, operating cost and maintenance requirements as a part of the analysis. His projects achieve the optimal balance of energy efficiency, ease of maintenance, reliability and initial cost.

Mr. Pinnix was a key participant in the development of the mechanical design guidelines for all research facilities under the supervision of the National Institutes of Health. Mr. Pinnix engineered the first project to utilize the guidelines and incorporate variable air volume and heat recovery for a laboratory building on NIH's campus. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University.

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