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Qualifying Your Laboratory Design Using Virtual Reality Methods Before Construction

Scott D. Reynolds, MS, PE, CAES, a Division of Bearsch Compeau Knudson A/E
Robert H. Morris, Flowsafe
Laboratories can present a special challenge to building designers because fume hoods may exhibit good containment at the factory but then subsequently fail field challenges when installed in the laboratory. In an effort to avoid these types of problems while designing new labs that are both safe and green, engineers and architects are now heavily relying on advanced design tools. One engineering tool that has surfaced as an accurate preemptive tool to avoid these costly failures is Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD).

The present method of designing laboratories is frequently divided into two phases: The first phase involves the initial design and subsequent construction using conventional wisdom, professional experience and various engineering guidelines. The second phase all too often involves a redesign of the first phase to correct problems that arise from poor hood containment or unexpected interactions of the hoods with their environment. In the past, engineers would rely on full scale mockups to provide insight of how their design would perform in the "real world." This method went by the wayside primarily because of the intense cost involved in constructing a temporary facility.

CFD has emerged as an attractive and cost effective alternative to mockups and can be a critical factor in achieving the goals of green buildings. Strictly a software approach, CFD allows the designer to perform "virtual" challenges of a lab using scenarios that are difficult or impossible to do with conventional physical tests. These include concurrent "virtual" near and far-field tracer gas tests and evaluations of multiple fume hoods simultaneously. CFD can also evaluate the effects of diffuser locations in labs, the effects of changing lab furniture, the negative effects of improper hood loading and the effects that several hoods have on each other.

To demonstrate the value of CFD, several case studies will used to reveal the effectiveness of various lab equipment where the results are benchmarked against actual field data.


This presentation will teach (1) some insights on what dictates a good design or a poor design, (2) methods to virtually challenge lab designs containing fume hoods, (3) the benefits of using CFD to assess lab design before construction, and, (4) a validation of numerical techniques by comparing to conventional tracer gas testing.

Labs21 Connection:

  1. Minimize overall environmental impacts.
  2. Protect occupant safety.
  3. Optimize whole building efficiency on a life-cycle basis.
  4. Promote energy and water efficiency efforts.
  5. Pursue advanced, energy-efficient HVAC technologies.
  6. Reduce emissions, streamline energy and water usage, and decrease overall costs-all while preserving the integrity of the laboratory's mission.

This presentation deals with the ventilation design of labs (particularly those with fume hoods) where the primary focus is on the health and safety of the people who use them. The topics included will touch on how labs will often fail chemical containment requirements after construction and how to avoid those problems while still in the design phase. We will introduce numerical methods (CFD) to demonstrate how a particular design may be simultaneously optimized for safety and performance and also offer a reduction in the amount of testing required to certify or qualify the lab. As a validation of the CFD technique, we will also introduce comparisons with conventional tracer gas testing. This presentation is geared toward all professionals who have a stake in designing labs correctly the first time.


Scott D. Reynolds, MS, PE, has a BS in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering from Clarkson University, an MS in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the University of Rochester, and is a registered professional engineer in the States of New York and New Jersey. He has worked for General Electric, Xerox and IBM before founding CAES in 1992, an engineering consulting firm specializing in numerical analysis using CFD and FEA methods. CAES became a division of Bearsch Compeau Knudson Architects and Engineers, PC in 1999. Scott has over 20 years experience in the engineering field.

Mr. Reynolds is currently involved in the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to predict air currents, the transport of airborne contamination, temperature stratification and particulate movement on both the inside and outside of buildings. The particular focus of his work applies CFD to understanding airflow in research facilities, labs, fume hoods, electronics enclosures and in the wind wakes around buildings. He has completed analyses on nearly 200 animal holding rooms for medical and pharmaceutical research as well as many studies of chemical labs and various designs of fume hoods. Scott has presented nearly 30 seminars, workshops, poster sessions and university level classes on the application of CFD on buildings and equipment. He has also published 15 trade journal or magazine articles and holds 8 US patents.

Robert H. Morris, has over 36 years experience divided almost equally between Chemical Process system design, Robotic/Automation Machine Control Design, and HVAC system design. More than 19 patents have been awarded to Mr. Morris for design of components which cover the field of air flow, fume hood control, fume hood design, actuators and valve/dampers.

Mr. Morris is considered one of the pioneers in Indoor Air Quality with articles published as early as 1982, making his fellow professionals aware of the project. While working with Air Monitor Corporation as Manager of Engineering and Systems Applications, with his background of industrial controls, Mr. Morris realized that the HVAC ventilation applications as presently designed and installed affected the health and safety of individuals exposed to these environments by their presence.

Mr. Morris developed the High Performance Bi-Stable Vortex Fume Hood and he gave the design to the fume hood industry. This hood dramatically improves fume hood performance in both, safety and energy consumption.

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