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A New Concept in Lab Cooling and Ventilation - Cost and Energy Savings From an Induction System

Vanderbilt MRB-IV: First Research Laboratory Application of the Venturi-Wedge Cooling System

Thomas C. Fisher, Jr., P.E., Phoenix Design Group, Inc
Donald Blair, AIA, Donald Blair & Partners, Architects

Vanderbilt Medical Center currently has a new 366,000 sq. ft. Medical Research Facility under construction in Nashville, TN. The building HVAC system utilizes a new concept in laboratory ventilation and conditioning known as the Venturi-Wedge. This system has significantly reduced mechanical system first cost in addition to providing a more flexible and energy efficient system requiring less maintenance than a variable flow tracking system concept. The Venturi-Wedge unit is a self-contained 4-pipe unit that receives a constant volume of preconditioned air from a central air handling system. The medium pressure air "induces" room air through an enclosed wedge-shaped plenum under each ceiling-mounted unit and draws the air over an intertwined heating and cooling coil. Depending upon the load within the laboratory, the "induced" air is either cooled or heated by the coils to satisfy room temperature requirements.

This system eliminates the need for providing 100 percent conditioned outdoor air to cool the laboratories. Outdoor air makeup is provided by the central air system to meet only the exhaust requirements of the fumehoods within a Lab Module (at least 6 air changes per hour). The remaining internal heat loads within the lab modules, equipment corridors and research alcoves are removed by the supplemental cooling coil at each Venturi-Wedge. There is no need for expensive flow tracking controls for each Laboratory and fume hood or the annual maintenance for calibrating the complex electronic controls.

The application of the Venturi-Wedge to Medical Research Building IV resulted in a first cost savings of about $2,400,000 in fan capacity, chiller capacity, sheetmetal distribution and electronic controls. Phase I of the project (120,000 sq.ft.) was completed in August 2005. The operating costs for the first complete year of operation should be available in November of 2006.

Recent interest from the medical design community in the Venturi-Wedge and similar "Chill Beam" systems has placed VUMC at the technical leading edge in the application of this Concept. The simplicity of the exhaust hood systems integration and control is felt to offer considerable infrastructure flexibility as well as yielding lower first cost and optimum energy cost benefits.

Labs21 Connection:

The building utilizes a new concept in laboratory ventilation and conditioning. The system has significantly reduced system first costs and provides a more flexible and energy efficient system, which requires less maintenance than a variable flow tracking system concept.


Thomas C. Fisher Jr. has been in responsible charge of HVAC engineering projects since 1974 while with Union Carbide in nuclear research at ORNL and the Y-12 weapons plant. His experience includes the HVAC systems computer modeling, building energy analysis, design calculations, design of HVAC DDC controls, equipment specifications, pipe stress analysis, cost estimating, computer software development, and extensive experience in inter-discipline coordination.

Other experience includes: Central chilling and boiler plant design, high-rise building design, convention centers and large assembly facilities, finite-element simulation modeling for pressurization control in multi-compartment buildings and atriums, CFD Smoke Control Simulation, ice and thermal storage design, pipe stress analysis, and acoustical analysis.

He is thoroughly familiar with DOE Energy Program, CAESAR II, AutoCAD and Intergraph CADD systems, NIST CFD Modeling and has authored several software applications. Mr. Fisher is personally responsible for the design of all HVAC and mechanical systems.

Donald Blair specializes in the master planning, programming and design of institutional facilities. His clients include health care, research, educational, and academic facilities that have complex programmatic and operational requirements. Projects consist of new buildings, renovations, and adaptive reuse of existing buildings. 25 years of practice has resulted in a design focus on maintaining operations, minimizing revenue and customer loss, planning for disruption of service, accurate phasing, budgets and other issues critical to the client's business. Donald was formerly managing director of Perkins and Will NYC office and a partner at Russo & Sonder Architects.


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