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Infill Laboratory Development: Balancing Vibration, Noise and Air Quality Issues during Construction and Operation

Darron Chin-Quee and John Alberico, Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin Inc.
Erik Andersen, Robbie Young + Wright

Infill development requires careful consideration of the surrounding uses in terms of both:

  • Effects of the proposed development on the surroundings and
  • Effects of the surroundings on the proposed development.

Given the proximity of other buildings and lab uses, vibration, noise and air quality (exhaust reintrainment) issues can arise. Often, there are divergent requirements such as quieting noise generated by exhaust stacks versus higher stack velocities required to disperse effluent in confined surroundings. Existing uses may also affect proposed uses and vice versa especially when in proximity to each other, a situation which is of less concern where buildings on campus are well separated. Recent examples include destruction test facilities affecting vibration-sensitive lab space.

Construction noise, vibration and dust are also issues which arise in infill development. The design of labs should address master plan considerations and where possible incorporate controls that will provide the flexibility for new construction at a later date.

Effective solutions for infill projects require an interactive dialogue between the architect, mechanical designer, users, the exhaust dispersion, and noise and vibration consultants.

The poster will focus on the noise, vibration, and air quality issues associated with laboratory building designs in infill developments. Positive and negative aspects related to the design of these facilities will be evaluated in terms of some case studies, with emphasis on balancing the requirements and applying holistic design approaches.


The optimization of noise, air quality and vibration requirements is often compounded for labs in infill developments. Construction activity can generate significant dust, noise, and vibration that can disrupt existing research and lab activity. In some cases, facilities must be relocated temporarily to remain functional. Labs designed with consideration of the campus master plan, future development and construction can avoid disruption arising from construction.

Operationally, a holistic approach is needed when addressing noise, vibration and air quality issues Architectural features and noise control features (e.g., noise walls, parapets) have a direct effect on the wind flow patterns created around a building rooftop, and more specifically around any rooftop exhausts. Beneficial noise screening may come at the cost of poor exhaust dispersion. Efforts to increase dispersion through higher stack discharge velocities can result in increased noise and environmental noise impacts at nearby buildings or residential communities.

Selection of fans and variable volume systems incorporating variable frequency drives must also consider the effects of low operating speeds on vibration isolation, which can be compromised if fan speeds are too low. Implementing energy saving measures in these variable volume systems must ensure that the vibration sensitive uses remain functional.

Labs21 Connection:

This presentation directly reflects the following aspects of the Labs21 approach:

  • Minimize overall environmental impacts - Noise and exhaust dispersion of contaminant sources are key considerations in the environmental design of labs and are often the subject of specific regulations. Improved exhaust dispersion and noise control from a laboratory building will reduce the potential for localized impacts.
  • Protect occupant safety - Optimizing the sometimes polar requirements for noise and air exhaust systems will reduce exhaust re-entrainment that will directly improve the indoor air quality of the laboratory buildings, thus improving the comfort and protecting the safety of the occupants. Comfort and performance of the lab occupants is enhanced by ensuring noise levels are kept sufficiently low.
  • Optimize whole building efficiency on a life-cycle basis - In many cases, the solution for noise, vibration, and exhaust re-entrainment impacts may have polar requirements. A holistic approach to the design of lab buildings should address all of these factors to optimize building performance. Consideration has to be given to the master plan for the campus, especially in infill development where the proximity of many buildings can result in heightened impact during construction as well as built-out operation.


Darron Chin-Quee is an Acoustics/Vibration Specialist and Project Director at Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin Inc. (RWDI). He has more than 15 years of experience related to noise, acoustics, and vibration issues in land-use planning and the design of buildings on higher education facilities, labs, and campuses.

While at RWDI, Mr. Chin-Quee has consulted on numerous projects, many of which relate to labs, colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada. These projects included building design and master planning for campuses. Examples of these include infill developments for the University of Guelph New Sciences Complex, Yale School of Medicine Congress Avenue Building, and the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) Palmer Drive redevelopment. The latter saw the addition of three buildings which potentially could have been affected by or have affected nearby buildings including the physical central plant and campus residences with respect to noise, vibration, and air quality issues.

John Alberico has a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in physical geography from the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Research for his Master's thesis investigated sediment transport and deposition of agricultural soils using a portable field wind tunnel.

John is an Air Quality Specialist and Project Manager in the environmental modeling division at RWDI in Guelph. He manages a wide range of studies—many relating to laboratories and research facilities—including numerical and physical dispersion modelling, internal ventilation, and research and development. He has been a team member for more than 150 wind tunnel studies and more than 450 numerical modelling studies involving the re-entrainment of a variety of stationary and vehicular exhaust sources.

Erik Andersen, Robbie Young + Wright

Biography not available at this time.


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