KJWW Engineering Consultants: Pegula Ice Arena

New construction at a sports/entertainment/convention center facility.

By KJWW Engineering Consultants August 14, 2014

Engineering firm: KJWW Engineering Consultants
2014 MEP Giants rank: 23
Project: Pegula Ice Arena
Address: University Park, Pa., U.S.
Building type: Sports/entertainment/convention center facility
Project type: New construction
Engineering services: Electrical/power, fire/life safety, HVAC/mechanical, energy/sustainability, plumbing/piping, and other
Project timeline: 2/13/2012 to 9/1/2013
MEP/FP budget: $25,000,000


KJWW Engineering Consultants provided mechanical, electrical, plumbing , fire protection, and ice systems design for the Pegula Ice Arena in University Park, Pa., the new home of Penn State Division 1 Hockey. The $89 million, 228,000-sq-ft, state-of-the-art venue was designed to be a fan-friendly, entertaining
environment and provide athletes with the fastest, hardest ice surface in North America. The facility features a 6,000-seat main arena (including a 1,000-seat student section) with an National Hockey League (NHL) regulation-size ice rink. New locker rooms, weight room, offices, and training spaces serve the Penn
State men’s and women’s ice hockey teams. A second NHL regulation-size rink with 300 seats operates nearly 24 hours a day for practice and tournament use by community and youth hockey leagues and figure skaters. The project presented many engineering challenges, including:

  • Providing the athletes with the fastest, hardest ice surface in North America.
  • Controlling the arena’s humidity level—a crucial factor for providing dry, fast ice.
  • Providing two ice surfaces capable of being maintained at two different temperatures for two different uses, hockey and figure skating.
  • Providing a safe environment for the ice plant facilities crew. Typical NHL ice systems are crammed into tiny spaces, creating dangerous proximity to moving parts and ammonia.
  • Providing an integrated, energy-efficient infrastructure. Ice rinks typically are "energy hogs," but the university desired that the Pegula Ice Arena be an energy-efficient, LEED-certified facility.


Unlike many ice arenas that are inefficient and rely on the ice to condition the space, KJWW designed the Pegula Ice Arena’s HVAC systems and ice plant to integrate and be energy efficient. The sophisticated ice plant is designed for performance, operator safety, redundancy, and maintenance. Key features include 26 miles of pipes, high-efficiency screw compressor ice making systems, and evaporative condenser towers and pumps. Ammonia refrigerant is circulated through the ice plant and ice making compressors before it passes through a plate and frame heat exchanger, where it removes heat from a brine mixture of glycol and water. Filters use reverse osmosis to remove impurities from the water. The brine mixture is then circulated through the pipes to remove heat from the concrete slabs below the ice. The tubing was held close to the top of the concrete slabs to increase heat transfer efficiency and maintain the temperature profile across the ice surfaces. An operating system with industrial-grade programmable logic controllers runs the automated plant to maintain the 1.5-in.-thick ice sheets, simultaneously monitoring (via infrared sensors in the ceiling) ice temperature, water, glycol and ammonia levels, and the arena’s humidity level. The advanced operating system has the ability to maintain the two ice surfaces at different temperatures to provide warmer ice for figure skating in the community rink and colder ice for varsity hockey in the main arena. The Pegula ice plant is a distributed system that occupies an area about 10 times the size of an NHL ice plant, providing facilities personnel with plenty of space to perform maintenance in a safe environment. The building’s mechanical system includes 12 air handling units, 6 of which incorporate 100% outside air into their design. Since dry air leads to dry, fast ice, three of the AHUs serve as large dehumidification units to condition outside air before it enters the building, helping to maintain not only the arena’s internal humidity but also its air temperature. Desiccant dehumidification wheels, heated to an extreme temperature, remove moisture from the passing air. The dry air then is circulated into the arena bowl at 90,000 cfm to maintain 40% relative humidity. Another dehumidification unit serves the locker rooms, exhausting directly from each player’s equipment storage area, providing a drying sequence that can be initiated by the equipment manager at any time. A radiant finned tube piping system along the curtain wall on the east side of the building counteracts any cold air seeping through the window to make the area as comfortable as possible. The design includes many sustainable features, including energy recovery wheels on certain air handling units, demand control ventilation, high-efficiency lighting and occupancy sensors, waterless urinals, and low-flow plumbing fixtures. The facility is projected to use 20% less energy compared to the base code (ASHRAE 90.1-2007) and is seeking LEED Gold certification.