Skip to main content Skip to main content

Get With The Program—LEED™'s Challenges the Mindset for Energy Efficient Laboratory Building HVAC System Design

Lee Tapper, PE, CIAQP, LEED™, Holabird & Root, LLC
There is this unfortunate notion that laboratory safety and energy efficiency are mutually exclusive objectives. Granted it is a challenge and will require the HVAC Engineering community to be more creative with their designs. As a designer of HVAC systems for numerous laboratory and research facilities over the past ten years, I understand that the innovative solutions are born from the resolution of difficult problems. It forces one to look at the building in a different light. We are continually bombarded with equipment and widgets that will provide a solution for most any adverse situation that may arise. As designers, many of us have been lulled into the pattern of using re-heated building HVAC systems and just adding on the next layer of widgets. With the introduction of the LEED™ certification process, this is a great opportunity for the HVAC design industry to take a fresh look at the entire building HVAC system design approach on a more holistic basis. In the process of understanding the dynamics of how different programs within a facility are to function and taking the approach of energy stewardship, the HVAC designer can develop HVAC systems that can balance safety and efficiency.


There is a diverse selection of programs housed in a Science and Research facility. The manor in which these different programs function over time is very dynamic. The HVAC system needs to be just as dynamic as the programs. Through the DDC control systems, the HVAC system comes to life and responds effectively to the instantaneous needs of the users. The system is to ramp up as the activity levels increase and relax as ventilation requirements decline. Knowing and understanding the programs is the first step.

The designer must be very careful not to force a system onto the building. Numerically analyzing the buildings ventilation and thermal requirements in order to allow the programmatic requirements to influence the HVAC designer as to what systems are appropriate.

The HVAC designer needs to be involved in the project during the programming phase to integrate and develop the HVAC system relationships between the building and the program. Just as there is a logic in the program organization, in the facility there should be a complementary logic in the fashion that the HVAC systems are deployed through the facility.

For the long term success of the design, it is imperative that the Facility Staff be engaged in the design process and brought along with the development of the design as the foundational step to understand how and why the HVAC system operates as it does.

Using this process will result in HVAC systems that will naturally achieve LEED™ certification.

Labs21 Connection:

Throughout the presentation, examples of projects will be used illustrating the validity of topics discussed. This approach has been used successfully in over ten science and research facilities over the past ten years which are all in operation and would achieve a high rating using the LEED™ criteria of the HVAC system. This was proved with the awarding of a silver rating to the Vermeer Science Center at Central College in Pella, Iowa this past fall. The college made the decision to register the project with the USGBC during the Design Development phase, and the design of the HVAC system did not need to be altered to achieve 12 of the 34 points awarded. Effective, efficient, reliable and safe HVAC system solutions are built on a sound design approach and engineering practice which engages and involves the Programmer, Owner, User, A/E Team, and Facilities Personnel is the backbone of sustainable design.


Lee Tapper, PE, CIAQP, LEED™, Holabird & Root
As the lead mechanical system designer (both HVAC and Plumbing) on numerous multidiscipline science and research facilities, Lee Tapper has designed mechanical systems for a variety of laboratory types and conditions. The laboratory types include instructional, research, and production laboratory facilities for chemistry, physics, biology, biomedical, psychology, neurology, and genetics. The project experience is a combination of renovation, addition, and new. This requires developing an assortment of energy conservation strategies to address the contaminate containment and operational character that integrates that into the building fabric to address personnel safety, research flexibility, operational consistency, and energy stewardship. This necessitates development of testing and modeling methods to verify appropriateness of the design solutions.

In the past ten years Mr. Tapper has served as the Lead Mechanical Engineer on the following completed (or under construction) science and research facilities:
Macalester College - Olin and Rice Halls
University of Evansville - Koch Hall of Science
Wabash College - New Science Facility
Wabash College - Goodrich Hall Renovation
University of Minnesota - Tate Hall of Physics Renovation
University of Minnesota - Amundson Hall of Chemical Engineering Mechanical Systems Upgrade
Central College - Vermeer Science Center
Wittenberg University - Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center
Purdue University - Gyte Laboratory Renovation
Wisconsin Lutheran College - New Academic Teaching Facility (Science Building)
MPI Inc. - Necropsy Laboratory Renovation
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago - Samples Testing Laboratories

The following projects are currently in various stages of design:
Grinnell College - Noyes Hall of Science Addition and Renovation
Grinnell College - New Environmental Research Facility (CERA)
Augsburg College - New Science Facility
St. Olaf College - New Science Facility
Baldwin Wallace College - Earth and Life Science Facility Addition and Renovation
Luther College - Valders Memorial Hall of Science Addition and Renovation

Other Qualifications:
Mechanical Engineer
Director of Mechanical Engineering
Professional Engineer
Certified Indoor Air Quality Professional
Past President of Rochester Section ASHRAE
ASHRAE Steering Committee Member Rochester Section
Recipient of ASHRAE Design Award for Macalester College Olin and Rice Hall of Science
Recipient of ASHRAE Design Award for IBM Building 020 Renovation
Recipient or ASHRAE Design Award for Vermeer Science Center
Have been involved in the commissioning process for five of the completed science and research facilities listed above.

Other Speaking Engagements:
2003 LHAT Conference - Green Theatre Design - Miami, FL
2004 Laboratory Design Review - Integration of Labs into Energy Efficient Building Systems - Cleveland, OH
2004 APPA Conference - Sustainable Campus LEEDers - Washington, DC
2004 AEE Conference - LEED™ in Labs - Anaheim, CA


Back to the Agenda

EPA Home | OARM Home | DOE Home | FEMP Home

This page is no longer updated.
EPA gave I2SL permission to house this page as a historic record of the Labs21 Annual Conference.