Science Building Puts SIUE Back on Track

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The new science building at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville removes a hurdle to future growth.

Former SIUIE Chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift had called the shortage of undergraduate lab space “the single most important factor limiting the future growth of SIUE.”

After three straight years with student enrollment surpassing 14,000, the existing science building, constructed in 1966, was fairly bursting at the seams. It was in operation seven days a week in order to accommodate required lab classes. Even so, “they had maxed out the use of the labs,” said Christopher Chivetta, principal, Hastings+Chivetta Architects, Inc., the architect for the new building.

The need for space had become so desperate that the university even built some temporary undergraduate laboratories in unused space in the biotechnology incubator building on the edge of campus.The new, 139,000-square-foot science building, to be turned over to the owner this Spring, addresses that shortage. It will house laboratories and offices for the chemistry, biological sciences, and environmental sciences departments. Once they have moved into the new building, renovations will begin to completely refurbish laboratories and offices in the old science building for physics, mathematics, and statistics.

The new four-story science building includes new teaching and research laboratories for SIUE, Chivetta said, so that undergraduate students can have more opportunities to be involved in research. The building also will feature student study areas at corridor ends and interaction areas to encourage more interdisciplinary study and research.

Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Sciences

The biological sciences will occupy the bottom two floors of the building. The ground floor will house aquaria, zoology and botany labs, a vivarium, anatomy and physiology labs, an ecology lab, and research labs. The first floor will house microbiology, genetics, and cellular and molecular biology labs as well as research labs. Some labs will have specialized adjacent spaces such as cold rooms, warm rooms, environmental growth chambers, or animal care facilities.

Chemistry will take up the second floor and part of the third floor with research labs, general chemistry labs, nursing chemistry, and specialized labs for organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, biochemistry, and quantitative analysis. The environmental science department will share the third floor, but have its own dedicated lab and research space.

Other facilities in the building include faculty offices, a machine shop, a scanning electron microscope facility, darkroom, conference rooms, and student lounges. The construction cost was roughly $40.7 million. Furnishing it will bring the total cost up to $52 million. The renovation of the existing building will cost another $30 million.

In a sense, Hastings+Chivetta was fortunate that the university decided to build temporary labs in the biotechnology incubator building. “That gave us the unusual opportunity to test out our lab designs with the faculty for a year,” Chivetta said. They got to test out the casework, flooring, and bench tops for a chemistry lab and a biology lab.

Hastings+Chivetta took a module approach to lab planning in order to make the design and construction of the building really efficient. “I call it using Lego building blocks,” Chivetta said. “The repetition in the structure, the mechanical and electrical systems, and even in the window systems, yields efficiency in construction,” he said.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

Like all new buildings on the SIUE campus, the science building was designed and built to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. In this case, the university is aiming for a LEED Silver certification. LEED features include:

• non-heat absorbing roofing materials;
• water conserving plumbing fixtures that reduce water use by 44 percent;
• high efficiency insulating materials;
• a 30 kW photovoltaic array on the roof;
• sun shades on the south and west facing windows;
• high efficiency window glazing;
• lighting and air conditioning occupancy sensors;
• daylight harvesting that adjusts brightness of overhead lights according to how much natural light enters a room through the windows;
• a system to reclaim heat from laboratory exhaust;
• use of building products made from recycled materials;
• recycling of construction waste; and
• active teaching displays showing building energy use.

Bruce Coleman, project manager for the BRiC Partnership, said LEED was a little difficult to deal with. BRiC provided the mechanical and electrical engineering for the project.

BRiC applied many of the energy conservation measures from Labs21 to the project. Labs21 is an EPA sponsored partnership dedicated to improving the environmental performance of U.S. laboratories.

One of the ideas they applied to the SIUE science building was to install motion sensors on the faces of laboratory fume hoods to control the amount of ventilation supplied by the hood. “When someone is in front of the hood, it increases the rate of air flow, when no one is there it reduces the air flow rate to save energy,” Coleman said. The change is from 80 cubic feet/minute when someone is present to 60 cubic feet/minute when no one is there.

“That should help with LEED, because it cuts down ventilation rates, which saves energy,” he said. “We undertook it with hopes of using it to get LEED points, but then we found out that we can’t use it,” he said. Coleman said that the U.S. Green Building Council (the owners of the LEED rating system) requires them to model energy efficiency as if they did nothing to improve the efficiency of exhaust rates. “They said that the ventilation air requirements used in our model calculation would have to be the same as for base lab building,” he said. That makes no sense to Coleman, because, “the amount of lab exhaust we were able to reduce will significantly impact the ventilation air requirements,” he said.

BRiC took several other steps to make the mechanical systems more efficient that will help the building attain LEED certification. Those include:

• a heat recovery loop on the exhaust air,
• Phoenix air valves for more precise control of air entering and exhausting from the lab,
• an Aircuity system that drops air flow rates in a space when it is unused,
• VAV (variable air volume) controls,
• a larger temperature differential across the chiller,
• lowering (“resetting”) hot water temperature in warm weather, and
• a dedicated process chiller to cool lasers and avoid dumping water down the drain.

“The typical delta T (temperature difference) across the chilled water coils would be 10-12 degrees F. We increased the delta T across the chilled water coils to 18 degrees F. The larger delta T reduces water flow and saves on pumping energy,” said Coleman. “The higher delta T also increases the chiller efficiency, because the warmer the chilled water return temperature is, the more efficient the chiller becomes,” he said.

As for resetting the hot water temperature, the thinking, Coleman said, is that as the outside air warms up, “the need for hotter heating water decreases, so we decrease the supply water temperature to reduce the firing rate on the boilers.” When the outside air temperature is zero degrees F, the heating water supply temperature will be 150 degrees F. When the outside air temperature is 60 degrees F or above, the heating water supply temperature will be 100 degrees F. “The heating water supply temperature will be adjusted linearly between 150 and 100 degrees F,” he said.

An Attuned Owner Gets a State-of-the-art Building

“Energy efficiency is pretty important on every project,” Coleman said, but effective decisions are made when conversations on costs versus savings occur early in the project, because that is where the project is made. “You have to have an owner, who is pretty attuned to the mechanical system, which we do have at SIUE,” he said. As a result of the decisions the university made early on, “I believe we’re close to LEED Gold, or at least high silver,” he said.

For the electrical contractor, Pyramid Electrical, the job was an intensive one with more work for the volume of space even than a hospital. For instance, “we probably put in 1200-1300 load controls such as occupancy sensors and photovoltaic sensors,” said Bob Snell, the project manager. The work was pretty routine, but there was a lot of it.

The four-story, cast-in-place concrete structure features architectural precast concrete wall panels, erected by Concrete Strategies, glass and aluminum curtain walls, and a “sky bridge” connection to the old science building. Williams Brothers Construction was the general contractor.

“It was a challenge matching the existing building to the state-of-the-art building in order to bridge them,” Chivetta said. “In the ideal world today, you have 16-foot floor-to-floor heights, which gives you the opportunity to put in low vibration floors and gives you an ample mechanical zone in the ceiling for duct work of the right size for a more efficient mechanical system and a nice ceiling height in the lab space. The old building had lower floor to floor height, so we had to adjust for the bridge,” he said.

Chivetta added that one of the things that he most enjoys about the building is the lobby that runs vertically through it. “From the campus, you can see study areas and conference areas and people moving up and down,” he said.

“It is a state-of-the-art laboratory building with the quality of finishes and technology that will make it successful for 50 years. It is one of the best laboratory buildings in St. Louis,” he said.