Johnson County Criminalistics Laboratory

New construction; Johnson County Criminalistics Laboratory; Harley Ellis Devereaux

By Harley Ellis Devereaux August 15, 2013

Engineering firm: Harley Ellis Devereaux
2013 MEP Giants rank:
Johnson County Criminalistics Laboratory
Olathe, Kan., United States
Building type:
Project type:
New construction
Engineering services:
Electrical/Power, HVAC, Lighting
Project timeline:
June 2009 to March 2012
Engineering services budget:
$6.1 million
MEP budget: $6.85 million


The proposed building was modeled using a high-efficiency ground source closed loop heat pump system. Due to the fact that the county’s electricity rates are below the national average by $0.025, and natural gas rates are $1.70 less costly (per MCF), current actual energy costs were used. In addition, a total enthalpy energy recovery wheel was incorporated in the air handling system as a way to effectively pretreat incoming air with energy extracted from building exhaust air. This system resulted in elimination of natural gas use in the building as well as a 1.2 million-gal reduction of potable water usage. When compared to the base building, the ground source closed loop heat pump system (119 wells at 500 ft deep) showed a 45% energy improvement. When combined with other energy saving strategies, the overall reduction of energy consumption is 52.3%. This energy savings results in a 30% reduction in CO2 production. According to studies completed by Oak Ridge National Laboratories, maintenance savings is projected to be $19,000 per year. The mechanical engineers utilized low-flow fume hoods with 60 fpm face velocity in compliance with the latest ANSI z9.5 guidelines and an Aircuity system for ventilation demand control.

Several key strategies helped to meet the critical lighting and energy objectives. Shelving in laboratories was restricted to the perimeter of the room, keeping the center of the room clear for open examination tables. This allowed for flexibility in positioning luminaires by minimizing vertical obstructions to light. Lightly colored finishes were selected for the rooms and the laboratory benches, allowing increased reflection in the room and improving lighting levels. Wherever possible, a task oriented lighting approach was followed, focusing the light on the lab benches and work surfaces where the light was needed and reducing the light levels in circulation spaces and aisles. Suspended linear fluorescent luminaires were selected with 20% uplight and 80% downlight to focus light on the task surface while still providing uplight to the exposed construction and helping to reduce shadowing on work surfaces. Next, high-powered LED lights were suspended over select exam tables to provide high levels of light under exam conditions.


The Johnson County Criminalistics Center will be the first forensic facility in the country to achieve Platinum Certification under the current USGBC requirements. The base building was modeled using the Trane Trace 700 Energy Modeling Software incorporating BIM technology. This base building is required to meet the minimum ASHRAE 90.1-2007 Energy Code requirements to set the baseline from which the overall LEED-Optimizing Energy Performance reduction levels are calculated. Johnson County’s new Criminalistics Laboratory is 62,500 sq ft and had a construction cost of $22 million. The lab comprises seven forensic departments: serology/DNA, trace evidence, controlled substance analysis, firearms and toolmarks, latent prints, crime scene investigation, and digital forensics. Crime scene investigation provides 24/7 operations in the building without compromising security for the remainder of the laboratory.

The owner had stringent serviceability requirements to ease maintenance of all user operable equipment, requiring access floor level or above in open floor space. The electrical engineering challenges were threefold. One was to reduce energy use as much as possible to meet the LEED energy reduction goals. Second was to maintain at least 70 footcandles on the laboratory workbench and provide up to 100 footcandles in select evidence examination areas. The third challenge was to produce a lighting design layout and strategy that met with the owner’s and the architect’s aesthetic vision.

View Harley Ellis Devereaux’s presentation, "Johnson County Sherriff’s Office: Criminalistics Laboratory."