Comparative Case Studies, Alternative Energy Solutions
for Lab Ventilation
Richard R. Janis, PE, LEED
Accredited, William Tao & Associates, Inc.
Jeff Erker, Johnson Controls, Inc.
This presentation compares four project case studies. Each project
uses a different approach to saving energy in lab ventilation systems.
The projects are:
- Nidus Center (LEED Silver, Labs21, Consulting Engineers
Council Engineering Excellence Award)
- Washington University Earth & Planetary Sciences Building
- SE Missouri State Crime Lab
- Pfizer St. Louis Research Buildings AA/BB (MSPE Outstanding
Engineering Achievement Award)
Each of these projects is exposed to the same climate conditions
and has significant ventilation requirements due to fume hoods and
air exchange rates for safety. There are, however, differences in
lab users' practices, differences in materials being handled in
the labs, and differences in budget and economic goals of the owner.
Meetings and close communications were done throughout the design
process to make sure that the designers were producing solutions
appropriate to the specific needs of each of the projects.
Differences in specific needs of the projects dictated different
solutions to the problem of energy conservation in the design of
- Nidus Center: Utilizes the owner's suggested minimum air exchange
rates, full VAV hood controls, and energy recovery wheels in general
- Washington University Earth & Planetary Sciences Building:
Uses low flow hoods, adjustable airflow rates based on safety
requirements of individual lab modules and supplementary cooling
for appliance loads.
- SE Missouri State Crime Lab: Uses concensus air exchange rates
and 2-position VAV fume hoods.
- Pfizer St. Louis Research Buildings AA/BB: Uses corporate standard
minimum air exchange rates and full VAV hood controls.
The presentation will describe the project context and program
characteristics which resulted in the different solutions. Pro's,
con's and results of these basic system choices will be outlined
for specific applications.
The primary lesson of for lab designers is that no single solution
is applicable to all labs. The lab designer must consider many issues
before applying a specific ventilation technology and energy conservation
- Nature of hazardous materials
- Corporate/institutional/local authorities standards and codes
- Experience level of lab users
- Building configuration
- Maintenance capabilities
- Initial cost constraints
- Owner investment criteria
If the project design is not approached on a "whole building"
basis, the ventilation system may become an off-the-shelf-solution
copied from the last project or the latest journal.
The presentation will also address energy modeling and commissioning
as part of the overall design and installation process. Energy modeling
was performed during design of each of these projects. (Accuracy
of the modeling techniques was validated by operating experience
with the Nidus Center, which has sufficient records to provide reliable
data.) The case studies include energy performance comparisons of
the various technologies used on the four projects. In addition,
these projects include valuable data on initial cost, maintenance
experience, and life cycle economics. At the time of presentation
we will also have had a chance to consult with users and assess
their reaction to the installations. Three of the projects will
have over one year of operation; the other two several months.
All of the four projects were commissioned, but the procedures varied
based on differences in project delivery methods. The presentation
will comment on lessons learned about the effectiveness of commissioning
The approach used on the four projects was to design ventilation
systems based on the engineers' understanding of "whole building"
issues rather than simply designing to air conditioning loads and
minimum air exchange rates. The list of issues in the prior section
indicates the variety of people whose input was needed during the
process. This approach involved close cooperation and communication
among the many owners' representatives, the architect and the engineer
to make sure that solutions were integrated and that they truly
address the programmatic needs.
Considerable meeting time and charrettes were necessary to gain
information, test concepts, and assure that solutions were specific
and appropriate to the project. These four, fairly contemporaneous
projects in the same climate and locality are markedly different
in their ventilation systems designs. This demonstrates that specific
solutions are necessary for different project needs.
Life cycle cost analysis was performed for each project in order
to compare solutions and demonstrate to the owner that the chosen
designs were consistent with their general investment guidelines.
In all cases it was important to save energy within reasonable economic
parameters. Spending too much on energy technology would have diverted
resources better spent on other aspects of the project. Again, a
"whole building" approach was used.
Safety was a paramount consideration in each of the designs. Three
of the projects were designed with input from corporate or institutional
environmental health and safety professionals. The other was designed
to safety guidelines from a national accreditation organization.
In some cases, the project team challenged guidelines and they were
relaxed when proposed solutions were considered equivalent in safety.
The projects exemplify many of the Labs 21 tenets, including whole
building design, investment decisions based on life cycle, energy
efficient HVAC systems, and recovery technology. These tenets, properly
applied, will produce unique designs, specific and appropriate to
unique project needs.
Richard R. Janis, PE, LEED Accredited, has been a
practicing professional engineer for over 20 years. Mr. Janis was
educated at University of Missouri at Rolla, where he received his
B.S. Degree in Mechanical Engineering. His graduate work includes
a Master of Architecture and an M.S. in Building Environmental Systems
from Washington University.
His work includes research, evaluation and design of building environmental
systems and sustainable energy technology. As manager for most of
his firm's master planning and high-tech projects, he is responsible
for establishing design criteria, systems selection, utility requirements,
design implementation, and planning commissioning efforts. Innovative
concepts in laboratory and data center projects have won national
He is author of Mechanical and Electrical Systems in Buildings
(Prentice Hall 1997, 2001) and numerous articles on topical issues
in the field. As an affiliate Associate Professor, Mr. Janis teaches
building technology courses including "Climate and Light"
at Washington University School of Architecture and "Engineering
Systems Parameters" in the School of Engineering.
Janis is active in USGBC St. Louis, having served on the Executive
Committee since the Chapter's inception in 2002. He is also active
in IFMA (International Facility Managers Association), is a past
Chapter President, and has presented papers on sustainable design
topics at World Workplace.
Jeff Erker, BS-ME UM-Rolla '96, Account Executive with Johnson
Controls, Inc. (JCI), has been working in the St. Louis area's Research
and Life Science Market for the last 6 of his 8 years at JCI. Jeff
works closely with the owners, engineers and contractors to assist
in system design, installation, and commissioning processes.
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