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Organization of research lab spaces in Purdue Univ.’s Center for High-Performance Buildings at the Ray W. Herrick Lab. Image: AEI  

  

The building industry relies heavily on sophisticated modeling, typically deploying energy models with accuracies ranging from 5 to 50%, and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models that deliver accuracy in the 5 to 20% range. Purdue Univ.’s Center for High-Performance Buildings at the Ray W. Herrick Labs (Herrick) is a breakthrough research facility defined by the precision of its empirical measurement. The ability to re-configure space to integrate measurement at all levels is inherent in the building. Herrick’s design manifests the primacy of measurement in a space programming topology that accommodates dexterity and specific instruments’ requirements for access and control. A living lab capable of complete change-out of entire building systems, Herrick is far more accurate than any model. Yet, it respects the model, seeks to inform it, calibrate it and make it robust.

Herrick enables researchers—both staff and industry partners—to incubate and validate new building systems and products, empirically measuring their impact on energy and the indoor environment.

Herrick’s thermodynamics labs provide validation through the Thermal Systems Lab, Psychrometric Chambers Lab and Living Labs. Each lab is equipped with a graduating set of instrumentation to match the evolution of an idea from prototype to commercial product. Consistent with Herrick’s “measure not model” mantra, the results measured in two experimental Living Labs are compared against two baseline Living Labs. Meticulous care was taken to insure both internal and envelope loads—prior to experimental changes—were uniform across all four labs, thus creating near-zero error in terms of measured improvements vis-à-vis the baseline standards.

The “unit under test” in the Perception Based Engineering Laboratory (PBE) is the human being. What constitutes ergonomic design is proven here, through precise manipulation of temperature, velocity, humidity, vibration, light and sound. Similarly, the unit under test in the Air Quality Chamber is the ambient environment. The end result is highly dependable characterization of spaces ranging from infectious disease patient rooms and intensive care units to cleanrooms, airplane cabins and nanofabrication labs.

This facility expresses a world-class research environment with flexible space, infrastructure accuracy and the ability to inspire and showcase science. Since the lab itself is such an integral component of the research, engaging users is a critical design dynamic with the end goal of delivering a facility that is nimble and clearly understood by users. Ultimately, this is a facility where users gain a sense of ownership and participate in the configuration of its spaces.

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The Air Quality Chamber at Herrick Labs lets researchers test how space and system configurations affect air quality, thermal comfort and energy efficiency to validate and improve CFD models. Image: AEI  

  

The facility’s instrumented geo-exchange borehole is the first of its kind, providing critical real-world data to minimize error and improve typical rule-of-thumb “tons, (of cooling), per borehole” assumptions—a researcher’s tool to study real-world, Earth-derived delta Ts. Researchers use the data taken from the operation to develop the next algorithm to model, and optimize design for future geo-exchange fields worldwide.

Herrick Laboratory received a LEED Gold rating. The collection of labs is itself engineered so individual labs can borrow capacity from other labs that are idle, and the building itself can borrow operational capacity from corresponding lab systems. Combined with conventional passive and active sustainability measures, the building is realizing a 44% reduction in energy use and a 39% reduction in water use.

Researchers can control and monitor set points (temperature and humidity) throughout the building, examining optimal solutions for whole-building energy management as a function of research and occupant demands. Closed thermal loops within the building interact with campus steam and chilled water, and with each other, so heat rejection and heat injection in experiments can be managed in an environmentally friendly manner. When the geothermal loop isn’t used for research, it supplements the heating and cooling in the building.

For more information on the project, please click here.

AEI Principal Dave Sereno leads the firm’s Industrial Practice, working with automotive, engine and aerospace manufacturers, national labs, fuel and oil companies and major research universities. With a career focused on research, mission-critical and test facilities, AEI Project Manager Jeff Cappelle has developed a valuable blend of technical expertise and a collaborative style of project leadership.

Extra: Can sustainable design be cost effective?

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