Sciences Building Features Sound Environmental Choices

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    Ground floor of the Sciences Building atrium.
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    An array of pipes on the top floor of the Sciences Building will provide heating, cooling and air exchange.
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    Constant-volume low-flow fume hoods have been installed in all the labs.
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    Biology professor Ben Pierce examines a fume snorkel in his lab.
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    Faculty offices feature outside light.
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    The cupola of the Sciences Building north wing has been set in place, but the center wing cupola has not.
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    Atrium from the perspective of the fourth floor.
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    State-of-the-art biology laboratory
Dec. 12, 2003

by Judy Long

The design of Baylor University's 500,000 square-foot Sciences Building, slated to open in fall 2004, will exceed by more than a third the energy-saving requirements of the 2000 International Energy Conservation Code. The building's architects, Harley Ellis of Southfield, Mich., used a variety of approaches for an environmentally responsible design to house 21st century science at Baylor.

Biology Professor Ben Pierce, who oversaw academic planning for the facility, said science buildings present special challenges since their safety requirements make them the most energy-intensive buildings on a campus.

"You cannot re-circulate air in the lab areas. You don't want people breathing air laden with chemicals, so all air has to be fresh. The labs also require lots of air changes per hour because when the fume hoods are running (exhausting air with chemicals) you have to supply air to the rooms to make up for the air removed by fume hoods," Pierce said.

Typical laboratories use five times as much energy and water per square foot as a typical office, said Keith Hutchinson, project manager at Harley Ellis.

"In addition to large numbers of containment and exhaust devices, such as fume hoods, the labs also include a great deal of heat-generating equipment. Researchers generally require 24-hour access to the facility, so there's never a down time. Also, irreplaceable experiments require fail-safe redundant back-up systems and uninterrupted power supply," Hutchinson said.

To decrease the heat load, Harley Ellis designers are using one-inch insulated glass on the exterior. The exterior wall system also consists of a concrete masonry unit back-up, applied air barrier, two inches of rigid insulation and an air space underneath the brick.

"Daylight is an important component of the energy-efficient design," said Hutchinson. "Not only does it reduce energy use, but it increases comfort and enhances productivity. The design of the Baylor Sciences Building directs natural light into almost all the research laboratories and faculty offices."

Other lighting consists of high-energy fluorescent lighting and high-power energy-saving lighting in the atrium and outside the building. Very little incandescent lighting will be installed.

"What incandescent lighting there is will be mainly in the lecture halls and the 300-seat auditorium," Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson added that occupancy sensors will automatically turn lights off when the spaces are not occupied and will automatically switch on when someone enters the room. The light switches will be used only when the users need the lights to be off when the room is occupied.

Most of the 260 fume hoods in the building are constant-volume low-flow hoods. These energy-efficient hoods allow for reduced exhaust air volume, which will result in significant energy savings, Hutchinson said.

Relief air will be used to cool equipment rooms on the top floor, rather than cooling outside air, which will save energy. Also, additional pipe insulation is used throughout the building.

Designers also planned low-flow toilet fixtures and battery-powered infrared sensor controls for faucets in the restrooms.

Energy-efficiency and safety design features for the labs go beyond building code requirements to create state-of-the-art labs. All the labs are equipped with safe storage for hazardous chemicals. Containment pits in some of the chemical storage rooms are provided to contain spills and avoid accidental leaks into the ground or environment.

Although the sciences building appears to be a single unit, it is built as four buildings in the eyes of the building code, which is an important safety feature, Hutchinson said. "They are separated by fire-walls integrated into the design. Four separate buildings allow for an efficient distribution of control areas to serve the needs of the programs in the facility."

Pierce said safety of the building's users is the first environmental concern. "One of our goals from the very start was to create facilities that are as safe as possible for Baylor students, faculty and staff. This building is equipped with state-of -the-art life safety and alarm systems that will minimize risk to the users and let us know if there is a problem," he said.

Hutchinson said the 2000 International Energy Code (IEC) was adopted by the city of Waco in 2002 and by the state of Texas in September 2003, and the new Baylor Sciences Building exceeds the requirements of the IEC. "We utilized checklist forms from the U.S. Department of Energy to calculate compliance for the 2000 International Energy Conservation Code, and these formulas show our design to be 34 percent better than code requirements," he added.

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