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Energy-recovery wheels paired with active chilled beams minimize cooling energy used for the labs.
 
  

The Univ. of Florida (UF) Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona is a four-story, 100,000-sf research and conference center with academic classrooms for graduate-level pharmacy courses, research labs with bioinformatics and specialized lab functions, a call center for clinical research programs associated with the Institute on Aging and administrative office facilities. This facility extends UF’s academic research enterprise to the Orlando area and fosters collaboration with the neighboring Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. The project earned LEED Platinum designation from the U.S. Green Building Council.

This case study highlights ways the UF Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona aligns flexible lab design with energy-efficient building systems to provide a sustainable multidisciplinary research facility. The specific needs of lab users on each floor drive the implementation of energy-conservation strategies based on safety, flexibility and cost. As an example, the pumped water energy-recovery system that serves the specialized labs mitigates safety considerations associated with the risk of cross-contamination between outside air and exhaust, and has a simple payback period of seven years. Total energy-recovery wheels pre-condition outside air for the classrooms, offices and general labs to recover heating and cooling energy from the exhaust airstreams. The energy-recovery wheels reduce the peak cooling load by 180 tons, and have an overall simple payback of six years. Active chilled beams in the office and general lab spaces decouple the space cooling loads from outside air ventilation and use one-tenth the amount of transport energy as an equivalently sized all-air system. Despite the perceived risk of condensation associated with chilled beams in the humid central-Florida climate, careful closed-loop control algorithms and strategic zoning prevent condensation from forming on any chilled beam equipment.

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Chilled beam systems transport cooling energy more efficiently than traditional all-air systems, allowing for smaller infrastructure and lower energy use.
 
  

Flexible lab infrastructure allows the university to repurpose labs to accommodate changing research needs and different user groups, without disturbing programs in other areas of the facility. Distribution systems for lab gases, power and HVAC facilitate renovations within labs, while avoiding the need to disturb systems outside of the respective individual lab. Overhead service panels in the large, open labs provide easy “plug-and-play” access to lab gases, data and both normal/emergency power at each individual bench. Piped services for the labs allow for 20% expansion. Dedicated electrical panels for each individual lab area provide spare normal and emergency electrical circuits. The lab ventilation systems support the addition of lab fume hoods and snorkels with strategic connection points and expandable capacity. As a result of this approach, UF reconfigured more than half the lab space mid-way through construction, without modifying any equipment already installed or affecting the activities in other areas of the building. Over the course of the project, approximately two-thirds of the facility’s program were modified to meet the requirements of incoming research programs without the need to replace any major equipment or infrastructure components. Moreover, the project underwent this progression without any impact on its performance in the LEED rating system. This adaptability, combined with energy-efficient building systems, supports UF’s progressive sustainability goals in the hot, humid central-Florida climate.

Tyler Dykes, PE, CDT, LEED AP, is a Project Engineer in Affiliated Engineers Inc.’s S&T Group. Dykes leads mechanical design teams on new construction and renovation projects for sustainable labs with highly specialized and technically challenging applications.

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