Case study: University science building control systems

The Central Michigan University biosciences building included a detailed controls approach

By Casimir Zalewski and Derek Crowe January 13, 2021

When Central Michigan University decided to build a new $95 million biosciences building, the project would be the largest capital project in the campus’s 128-year history and required a detailed controls approach to be successful.

The building is 169,000 square feet with four floors of open assignable laboratory benches with adjacent shared flexible support labs served by a mechanical penthouse. Specialty spaces include a biosafety level-III lab, insectary, isotope lab, imaging core, field support room, aquatics vivarium, teaching labs, active learning labs and a lecture hall.

The design kicked off in 2011 with conceptual systems discussions and schematic planning. As the project moved into design development, all system control diagrams were reviewed by the facilities management team, the campus energy team and the users of the various science departments to identify operational points and sequences required. Halfway through the design development phase, a meeting was held to review the progress drawings with the university’s two control system vendors for their campus knowledge and product input.

The design development documents were soft bid and the university selected the preferred vendor to provide design-assist preconstruction services through contract documents. Meetings were held throughout the construction documents phase with all parties to hammer out the best solutions. Each system operation was critiqued to identify the required sequence of operations, controls points, setpoint parameters and the various alarm levels. Major adjustments were itemized with a purpose and magnitude of cost or savings.

The bidding phase reconciled the improvements and efficiencies because the design development soft bid using the itemized tracking sheet. Once construction started, shop drawings were quickly reviewed for conformity with the design intent by both the design engineer and commissioning agent, as most of the discussions around expectations of the systems had been discussed early.

On any project, there will be minor items during construction, especially with systems of a higher-than-average complexity. However, these issues were quickly resolved because all stakeholders had a clear understanding of the design decisions. Even when the university made some modifications to the design during the extended construction period, the revisions were implemented seamlessly because the design and construction team were integrated early in the process.

The building opened in 2018 per the university’s expectations and the 10-month post-occupancy walk-through revealed very few minor items.

This project was a success because the team followed best practice processes and because of the preparedness of all parties at the various points. Although the project was complex and required numerous meetings, the result was a successful project that met all parties’ expectations and requirements.

Author Bio: Casimir Zalewski is a principal at Stantec. Derek Crowe is a senior associate at Stantec.