exp: Dart Neuroscience Research and Development Center

Retrofit/renovation of a research facility/laboratory.

By exp August 14, 2014

Engineering firm: exp
2014 MEP Giants rank: 4
Project: Dart Neuroscience Research & Development Center
Address: San Diego, Calif., U.S.
Building type: Research facility/laboratory
Project type: Other
Engineering services: Automation/controls, commissioning/retro-commissioning, electrical/power, HVAC/mechanical, lighting, and plumbing/piping
Project timeline: 9/1/2011 to 8/1/2013
MEP/FP budget: $30,500,000


The engineering challenge for this project was the conversion of the typical mechanical and electrical systems from those meant for a three-story corporate office building to systems to accommodate an 188,000-sq-ft three-story corporate laboratory research facility. The new program included biology (65,000 sq ft), chemistry (45,000 sq ft) and vivarium (25,000 sq ft) laboratories along with corporate office space that includes large meeting rooms, a fitness center, and kitchen with indoor/outdoor dining space. The project scope also included the addition of two three-story atriums capped with skylights. All of the building single-pane fenestration was replaced with dual-pane glazing.


All of the existing mechanical and electrical systems were replaced to meet the more stringent requirements of the new research facility.

 Mechanical equipment included:

  • A 2100-ton central chilled water system with three chillers and associated pumps
  • A four-cell 2100-ton cooling tower with circulating pumps and filtration
  • A 22,800-MBH central heating hot water system with four boilers and associated pumps
  • A 140-hp boiler steam plant to serve the laboratory glass wash and vivarium cage wash systems
  • Six roof-mounted 100% outdoor air handling units to accommodate the 380,000 cfm of ventilation air needed for the laboratory spaces
  • 16 mixed flow variable air volume (VAV) roof-mounted exhaust fans to accommodate the laboratory and vivarium ventilation requirements
  • Phoenix control system with VAV supply and exhaust terminals for the laboratories
  • Three roof-mounted air handling units to serve the office, meeting room, and kitchen facilities
  • Four dedicated makeup air and four dedicated exhaust fans for the two atrium smoke control systems
  • An oil-less reciprocating duplex air compressor at 15 hp with a 250-gal receiver tank that provides compressed air to the laboratories
  • A rotary vane triplex vacuum pump at 10 hp with a 200-gal receiver tank that serves the laboratory vacuum system
  • A deionized water system with a 500-gal storage tank that provides maximum 18 meg ohm water to the laboratories
  • Bulk nitrogen tanks with a nitrogen piping system throughout laboratory areas
  • Bulk carbon dioxide tanks with a carbon dioxide piping system throughout laboratory areas
  • Central solvent supply and waste system that distributes and collects solvents from/to a central location to the research laboratory.

Electrical system upgrades included:

  • Two 4000-amp main electrical switchboards serve the building.
  • A 2-MW standby diesel generator feeds a 3000-amp standby switchboard serving the critical electrical loads in the building.
  • A 500 kVA main UPS system serves the new data center and laboratories.

A new central utility building was built on-site to accommodate new systems to provide chilled water, condensing water, heating hot water, central nitrogen, and central carbon dioxide to the research building. A new site building was provided to enclose the new 2 MW standby diesel generator. An existing enclosure adjacent to the back of the building was upgraded to include steam boilers for laboratory glass wash and vivarium cage wash equipment. An indoor equipment room houses the deionized water, vacuum, and compressed air systems for the laboratories. All of these mechanical and electrical system upgrades were done in an energy-efficient manner that maximized the energy incentives from the local utility at $200,000.