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Exemplary Laboratory Design From the Commissioning Perspective

Jarrell D. Wenger, Engineering Economics, Inc.


The primary objective of this presentation is to share lessons learned in the commissioning of a number of laboratory projects with the design community. The lessons learned will span all project phases with commissioning involvement, from pre-design through warranty. Project problems that surface in all commissioning activities, including design intent and basis of design document reviews, preliminary design review, construction document review, contractor submittal review, construction observation, startup observation, functional testing, troubleshooting and document verification, will be discussed. Means will be suggested of how to bolster laboratory system designs to mitigate or eliminate these project problems. It is hoped that these suggestions will lead to improved designs that more consistently achieve Labs21 performance goals.


Presented findings will include experiences from a number of commissioning projects spanning a variety of facility types and sizes. Although taken from specific projects, the issues will be generalized for broad application to laboratory design. Systems considered will include central heating plants, central cooling plants, VAV supply air, VAV exhaust air, heat recovery, evaporative cooling, humidification, VAV hoods, space flow and pressure balance, space temperature control, specialty lab systems, controls, monitoring and alarming. Suggestions will be made for improvements to design concepts, strategies and documents to achieve Labs21 performance goals and commissioning goals. Commissioning goals include meeting project performance requirements while making projects as reliable, efficient, maintainable, expandable and commissionable as possible within the budget. General strategies include documenting design intent and basis of design, making construction documents accurate and consistent, simplifying system concepts, utilizing robust technologies (from experience on previous projects), incorporating redundancy for critical systems, incorporating appropriate fail-safe operating modes and utilizing monitoring and alarming for early detection of failures.

Labs21 Connection:

This presentation will incorporate the Labs21 Approach aspects of commissioning, energy efficiency and monitoring, and will support lifecycle cost decision making by striving for long-term performance and reliability. In attempting to meet the lofty Labs21 performance goals, some laboratory system designs can become exceedingly complex, potentially sacrificing reliability and maintainability. This paper provides feedback on various laboratory design approaches and equipment as gained from commissioning those systems. Problems encountered in commissioning to achieve the intended system performance and efficiency in a number of lab projects suggest design approaches, system configurations and equipment selections that should be avoided or improved. This approach advocates long-term reliability and maintainability through simple and robust systems, design nuances, appropriate application of electronics for monitoring and diagnostics, and commissioning.


Jarrell Wenger is the Branch Manager for EEI's headquarters office in Denver. After earning his Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering, he worked for five years performing analysis, design, installation, troubleshooting and performance enhancement of mechanical and controls systems in a variety of facilities. The next eight years, he served as Senior Research Engineer for Johnson Controls where he was responsible for indoor air quality (IAQ) research and development, awareness and training, internal litigation expertise, business strategy development, and control product development.

Mr. Wenger's IAQ research efforts included diagnostics, building certification procedures, advanced contaminant and ventilation monitoring techniques, and control strategies for ventilation, IAQ, thermal comfort, and energy efficiency. He has spoken widely on the subject and has authored or co-authored numerous papers and articles. Since rejoining EEI in 1997, Mr. Wenger has focused on building system performance. He has performed IAQ problem diagnostics and energy efficiency analyses with economic performance comparisons. He has managed and executed a wide variety of new system commissioning projects as well as retroactive commissioning and troubleshooting efforts. In particular, he has been the commissioning agent for several LEED™ projects including a Gold laboratory certification effort that is currently in progress. Mr. Wenger is a registered professional engineer in Colorado and California.

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