Learning how to engineer colleges, universities better
Fletcher brings more than 15 years in the construction and real estate development industries to the company. He is an active member of industry organizations such as the Urban Land Institute, Smart Cities Council and Orange County Business Council.
TLC Engineering Solutions
Fryman has managed the engineering team for numerous higher education facilities, predominantly for public universities in Florida. His range of experience extends from fitness centers to highly sophisticated laboratory buildings and housing to university administration buildings, commonly attaining LEED Gold certification or higher.
Henderson Engineers Inc.
As Vice President|Higher Education Practice Director, Holden works on local, national and international projects. His areas of specialty include higher education, medical education, K-12 schools and sustainability-focused projects.
As senior associate, O’Connell’s primary responsibility is managing the company’s electrical department. He keeps current with industry trends such as green building design and LEED certification to educate other staff.
David K. Piluski
Piluski has more than three decades of experience designing MEP systems for a broad range of new construction projects as well as renovations. His specialties include higher education, health care and restaurant/entertainment facilities.
Affiliated Engineers Inc.
As principal and project manager, Sherman offers expertise in higher education research labs and health care facilities, During his tenure, he has led more than 2 million square feet of functionally complex facility projects.
Randy C. Twedt
Since joining the company 25 years ago, Twedt has worked on a diverse range of MEP projects. His contributions include medical projects, multiunit residences, university structures, courthouses and more.
Jeffrey P. Wegner
Since joining the firm in 2013, Wegner has worked on a range of projects, focusing on life sciences, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, aerospace and other high-tech projects. His expertise includes site utility master planning, alternative energy solutions, biocontainment and more.
CSE: What’s the biggest trend in college and university buildings?
Travis Fletcher: I’d say the biggest trends in these buildings include electrification, decarbonization, net-zero or near net-zero and P3. Additionally, moving to an “open” building automation system is an emerging trend. Many campuses do not want to be locked in anymore. Using the data from the system with analytics helps understand the opportunities in the system better and optimizes the systems for energy efficiency.
Ryan Fryman: There are many potential trends like data science; security; sustainability; student engagement; science, technology, engineering and math; and business incubators/innovation centers. Perhaps the strongest is providing interdisciplinary collaboration space. Many facility programs are written to appeal to multiple funding sources; from politically driven state and federal STEM programs to private donor impact opportunities.
Whether it is information systems combined with medical and pharmacy education, engineering programs comingling with construction management, live/learn honors college environments or even the college of education working with the athletic department, a trend of “joining forces” is occurring in new facility planning and construction and within the updating and renovating of existing spaces. The goals may be to attract multiple funding sources or to encourage emerging technologies and techniques in interdisciplinary learning or both of these and others. The fact is that in planning these collaboration spaces, colleges and universities are taking advantage of multiple successful components of existing programs to grow their facilities and provide valuable student experiences, which will stimulate economic growth in newly created fields and businesses that are spurred by these collaborative learning environments.
Carl Holden: Accelerated change: Funding, competition, demographics, industry needs, technology, value, integration of disciplines, accreditation concerns, remote and lifelong learners and performance data are some factors driving a higher rate of change than these buildings have seen in the past. Innovation and the rate at which project approaches in higher education are needing to change is affecting many campuses.
John O’Connell: College and universities have been at the forefront of implementing sustainable and energy–efficient mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. While there may be a more significant upfront cost to install these types of systems, these institutions have evolved to evaluate the life cycle cost while factoring the overall energy impact to the environment. In some cases, we are seeing net-zero buildings becoming a goal for several institutions.
David K. Piluski: Flexibility in occupancy and use. With colleges and universities trending toward new ways of delivering instruction including traditional live, online and hybrid courses incorporating online lectures with campus–based labs and collaboration sessions, the design of buildings and spaces has trended toward flexibility. What we previously had known as classrooms and labs are evolving into collaborative spaces, which are easily convertible for other uses and for combining functionality to make the best use of space and resources.
Bob Sherman: I am seeing university operations and maintenance staffs finally getting more of a voice in the design process. Universities spent a lot of money on a lot of new buildings over the last decade and were under a lot of pressure to install systems that were more complicated for sake of energy efficiency, at the same time having their budgets and manpower slashed. This has left a lot of these institutions with buildings that they just don’t understand and/or can’t maintain. Lately I have seen the O&M staff have much more influence over the final layout and design of the systems with an emphasis on maintainability and simplicity. It doesn’t matter how good the design is if they can’t operate and maintain it effectively.
Randy C. Twedt: The incoming generations of students grew up in technology-rich environments where they often exerted a lot of control regarding how they experience space. They expect the same level of integration and control in the academic environment. They want to customize their experiences in terms of lighting and temperature; and they demand access to high-speed internet at all times. The systems increasingly need to provide technology-rich, customizable environments but also allow management to override customization to control for efficiency.
Jeffrey P. Wegner: In California, we are seeing a strong trend away from the use of fossil fuel to lower the building’s carbon footprint. The University of California Policy on Sustainable Practices states, “No new building or major renovation that is approved after June 30, 2019, shall use on-site fossil fuel combustion (e.g., natural gas) for space and water heating” (with few exceptions). This policy is in alignment with California’s Senate Bill 100 that signed into law California’s commitment to 100% clean renewable electricity by 2045. We are seeing similar policies or guidelines from other publicly funded educational facilities.
CSE: What future trends should engineers expect for such projects?
Piluski: I am seeing a trend toward more multipurpose flexible spaces to accommodate dynamic teaching environments encompassing on-campus and remote learning. Another trend is in the teaching of technology trades at the community college and technical college levels. As traditional occupations in manufacturing and building trades have incorporated greater levels of technological expertise into the job descriptions, these institutions have stepped up to build lab environments that model real–world settings found in advanced manufacturing as well as creating exacting replicas of systems and equipment found in the mechanical and electrical rooms serving commercial buildings.
Twedt: We will see growth in smart buildings because students are demanding full integration of technology in their environments and universities are looking to be both cost-effective and sustainable. Smart buildings can respond to all of these needs.
Holden: These changes will result in an ongoing need to renovate buildings built to last for decades and built for specific functions. Renovations will continue to be centered around integrating departments, reallocating lecture space, adding active learning components and creating spaces where skills can be practiced or gained.
Wegner: We are starting to see trends or at least discussions, away from centralized heating systems, specifically central steam. The preferred approach is de-centralized heat pumps sized to meet the maximum heating requirements and chilled water byproduct is either used locally or dumped into the central chilled water loop.
O’Connell: Our company has seen a more aggressive push toward net-zero and reducing the carbon footprint of their campus. Pursuing U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold or Platinum appears to be more common, as well as design toward WELL Certification and Passive House Standards.
Sherman: The need to balance energy efficiency with simplicity of O&M. Our architectural partners are looking at the engineering team to provide some sophisticated MEP systems to meet energy goals (or even beyond) of the project. And, we do have a lot of systems at our disposal that we can employ now that do save a lot of energy. However, we have to balance that with the desire from the campus maintenance and operations group for simplicity of operation and upkeep.
Fryman: Engineers should expect to have to listen to the varying user groups of these collaborative spaces and think outside the box of typical single-purpose facilities to create an environment that fosters the innovative thinking that will occur within them. This requires the engineer to be experienced in the design of many types of facilities, not just your typical classroom building. The created environment may need to more closely resemble the environment that the students may find themselves working in after graduation.
CSE: What types of challenges do you encounter for these types of projects that you might not face on other types of structures?
O’Connell: Determining the building’s energy use intensity early on is important. Understanding the building operation schedule, the number of occupants and proposed program is critical to design the on-site renewable energy source to support the building.
Twedt: Educating academic clients about the benefits of technology remains a challenge. Many of these institutions may have outdated design guidelines and can be slow to adapt to change.
Sherman: The safety of the building occupants is the most important factor for the engineering design. We work on complicated projects for very sophisticated clients. First and foremost, we need to create environments that are safe for the occupants. For a teaching lab or research lab, we need to make sure that the decisions we make take into account the safety of those within the facility. On top of that, we need to layer in the desire for the building to be energy efficient, easy to operate and easy to maintain. There is a lot of tension at times between those competing forces and it is imperative that we make the best choices we can for the project.
Wegner: Common challenges occur around funding and identifying whose budget the energy efficiency upgrades falls within, whether it be an individual project cost or a facilities cost.
Piluski: Having experience with design and construction of actual advanced manufacturing facilities and mechanical/electrical spaces in numerous buildings, the major challenge I experienced was translating these environments to the realm of a teaching space. Manufacturing vignettes and training spaces for mechanical equipment must be designed to not only allow the arrangement and access typically found in real–world applications but must also incorporate additional space for lab teams to observe operations and instructors while maintaining safe and functional clearances.
Fryman: These types of facilities may actually contain multiple occupancy types. Depending on the different disciplines represented, varying amounts of ventilation or exhaust, task lighting, audiovisual needs, large meeting spaces, wet labs, etc. These types of variations require building infrastructure to accommodate them all. That could have a profound effect on the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system type, building control systems, life safety and data cabling and lighting, among many other possible needs.
Holden: The challenges in existing facilities come as we seek to integrate new infrastructure necessary for changing programs or space use. Building construction, glazing and plenum space don’t necessarily align with energy goals or with system incorporation needed to support simulated workplaces or skills labs. In both new and existing facilities, a challenge is designing not just for future flexibility but also current flexibility. As interdisciplinary collaboration continues to develop, we find many projects have multiple stakeholders who will use the same spaces and have a variety of needs for the systems that support them. Capturing and documenting these needs and providing an economic design to meet them can be a challenge.
Fletcher: We often see older infrastructure that hasn’t been updated in years because it hasn’t had the need to. It’s also difficult to gain access to data from older systems or find the right contractor that can integrate older systems into the newer ones. Many cannot afford to rip and replace and start with a completely new slate.
CSE: What are engineers doing to ensure such projects meet challenges associated with emerging technologies?
Twedt: We’re working to educate our clients about the advantages of technology. We focus on the fact that integrated technology benefits the end-user experience in the building and reduces the overall costs of running and maintaining the systems. We have one university client that asked us to disregard its guidelines and build the systems to the standards of best practices in commercial design. The client recognized it was an opportunity to push the envelope and was then able see the benefits of integrated technology firsthand.
Wegner: With California’s push toward clean electricity and the continued decline in solar photovoltaic cost, rooftop solar makes for relatively easy economics. The challenge becomes supporting the added weight with outdated building structures. Solutions include avoiding ballasted racking systems in preference toward mechanical attachments or choosing a partial ballast hybrid solution.
Fletcher: Some engineers are getting more involved with technology companies (i.e., controls) to meet these challenges.
Fryman: Engineers must plan for growth and change in today’s higher education buildings. These buildings are typically being planned to be 50-year (minimum) buildings. The building infrastructure needs to be scalable and flexible to meet the changing needs of the users over the expected life of the building.
Holden: We believe it is important to engage in project planning earlier than engineers traditionally have been involved. Setting goals early in the project for which emerging technologies are important to incorporate allows for the best outcomes and ensures the benefits of these technologies can be fully applied to the project. It is also a great benefit for the engineering team to be present with stakeholders in programming and space planning meetings to hear firsthand what the needs are for the building systems. This provides an opportunity to ask clarifying questions so the best solutions are developed.
Piluski: I work closely with the faculty and leadership to establish the ultimate goals of the project and how technologies will be adapted into the design from both the standpoint of functionality and teaching practicality. The faculty will be the primary users of the space and they bring their vision of the curriculum and instructional procedures to bear in the overall design.
O’Connell: Emerging technologies can significantly improve a buildings energy performance. Using an energy model throughout the various design phases of a project can help validate the energy impact of such technologies.
CSE: Tell us about a recent project you’ve worked on that’s innovative, large-scale or otherwise noteworthy.
Fryman: The University of Florida’s Joseph Hernandez Hall is a new 110,000-square-foot building that provides a centralized home for undergraduate general and organic chemistry instruction and state-of-the-art research facilities for faculty and graduate students studying chemical biology and chemical synthesis. Being located in the historic heart of the campus challenged the team to creatively design the chemical fume hood-intensive building. There are 138 chemical fume hoods, 64 mini-fume hoods, 124 snorkel exhausts and six biological safety cabinets. Creative solutions, including a mechanical penthouse, were developed to exhaust these devices while considering energy consumption, aesthetics and noise mitigation from rooftop exhaust. One of the most challenging features of this lab building was the 128–station general chemistry lab. The request of the department was that all the utilities serving the removable lab benches be fed from below with the system connections designed to be able to be disconnected by the users and the benches rolled away for storage. The quick-disconnecting systems included power, data, multiple gases, water, process chilled water and exhaust duct connections to mini bench-top fume hoods. This required all the systems to be installed in “trenches” beneath the floor. These systems were thoroughly modeled using Autodesk Revit 3D modeling software to confirm constructability.
O’Connell: Located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, the Williams College Residence Hall for the Center for Development Economics was designed to meet the Net-Zero Energy Petal of the Living Building Challenge. The 17,000-square-foot building is served by all–electric MEP systems to eliminate the reliance on fossil fuels as well as being independent of the central campus heating plant. The annual PV system generation was optimized to offset the total annual site energy consumption of the building, including heating and cooling equipment, lighting, elevators and domestic hot water heating. The MEP systems were coordinated with the energy analysis completed by the sustainability consultant early in the concept phase of design through the completion of construction documents. The building massing orientation and envelope were optimized through coordination with the architect and sustainability consultant. The MEP systems include ground source heat pumps, four-pipe valance units, a centralized dedicated outside air unit, LED lighting and electric water heaters.
Sherman: The North Carolina State Plant Sciences Building is a great example of a building that is complex and interesting from a design standpoint, while also being a new governance model for the university. The project is a research lab with fully conditioned greenhouse compartments on the roof. We used a decoupled HVAC system for the main building. The dedicated outdoor air system units incorporate a high-performance runaround loop system to precondition the outside air as well as reheat it after it has been dehumidified by the cooling coil. The warm dry air is then distributed through the building and any additional loads are offset by distributed heating and cooling devices (active chilled beams and radiant ceilings).
The greenhouse compartments each have a dedicated air handling unit so that they can maintain a space temperature of 62°F to 85°F at any time throughout the year. From a governance standpoint, the university envisions multidiscipline teams using the building for dedicated projects for a period of two to five years before they turn over to a new team and project. There will be a lot of churn in the building, which meant the building systems needed to be flexible to accommodate the new requirements with minimal rework.
Piluski: I led the MEP design team in design and construction of the Building Energy Systems and Technology Laboratory (BEST Lab) at Harper Community College in Palatine, Illinois. This project enlarged the existing primarily residential based technology HVAC and refrigeration technology lab on campus by converting three existing lecture classrooms into a state–of–the–art commercial HVAC equipment lab for systems and control technologies instruction. The project included design and construction of multiple systems within a laboratory environment including a low–pressure steam plant, hydronic hot water plant, water–cooled chiller, cooling tower, pumps, controls and accessories all serving a large built-up air handling unit fitted with multiple coils and sections to work with each of the plants, as well as electrical heating and direct exchange cooling.
Other systems modeled included a variable refrigerant flow system, multiple types of split systems and a water source heat pump system, which was also connected to the plant systems. The air handling unit serves multiple air terminals, including cooling only, electric heating, hydronic heating and fan-powered, located in the ceiling of all three classrooms and visible from below via translucent ceiling panels. I worked very closely with the head of the HVAC training department and the installing contractors to arrive at a final installation that fully functioned by simulating load conditions and allowed space, accessibility, flexibility for an effective training environment.
Holden: The Health Education Building at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas, was innovative in that it created new medical simulation labs and state-of-the-art learning spaces for the students of three schools (medicine, nursing and health professionals) to learn side-by-side in environments that mimic the hospital setting. The building provided a transparent and iconic solution to highlight the purpose of the facility — training the next generation of health care professionals. Our team worked to accentuate the progressive learning environment. We maximized energy savings with the existing campus system by incorporating on-demand ventilation, energy recovery and distributed air handling units that minimize fan energy. In addition, our lighting designs played a key role in accenting the building for maximum impact at night to keep the programs visible from one of the busiest intersections in the region.
Wegner: We have an approximately 120,000-square-foot research and development facility with a confidential client in the western United States that is developing revolutionary individualized medicinal therapies. CRB is providing architecture and MEP engineering. MEP design assist is provided by ACCO Engineered Systems, structural engineering by KPW Structural Engineering Inc., the general contractor is Dome Construction Corp., solar PV design by M Bar C., with PPA financing by Siemens USA. CRB and the client had a mutual desire to increase the site’s resiliency, redundancy and reliability while lowering the building’s overall carbon footprint. CRB evaluated several alternative energy options, including gas turbine, gas engines, fuel cell and complete building electrification.
Based on the client’s goals and available economics, the chosen option was electrification, which removed all fossil fuels as the primary fuel source. The total cooling load is about 600 tons and under California’s Title 24 requirements, would normally require a facility to be water cooled for enhanced energy efficiency; however, the client preferred the removal of cooling towers to reduce water consumption and associated heavy maintenance requirements. CRB evaluated the code requirements and found an alternative that provided an air-cooled solution and increased overall system efficiencies. Instead of traditional boilers of 85% to 90% efficient, CRB provided water-to-water heat pumps with auxiliary air-cooled coils that are modularized to allow for ease of scale-up in the future.
The water-to-water heat pumps provide traditional chilled water temperatures using a standard vapor compression cycle and reject the heat to the heating hot water system. When loads are balanced, the simultaneous efficiencies exceed 8.5 coefficient of performance, while the code minimums are only 5.6 coefficient of performance, a 150% improvement (not including the avoided cooling tower fan and pump penalties). When loads are imbalanced, the heating- or cooling-dominant criteria simply either rejects or collects heat from the auxiliary air-cooled coil.
With a fully electrified facility, the reliance on the grid is increased, obviously. And with recent California wildfires and public utility bankruptcy filings, the California electric grid is in a fragile state. To offset this concern, CRB proposed a complete rooftop coverage of solar photovoltaics totaling nearly 1,000 kilowatts, providing nearly 50% of the annual on-site energy consumption. With the influx of solar PV in California, time of use rates make electricity more expensive in the evening when the sun begins to set. To take advantage of time of use rates, we further proposed a 2,000-kilowatt-hour battery energy storage system. All these alternative energy solutions are provided at no cost to the owner. Instead, a third-party financier is willing to finance the capital cost of equipment in exchange for selling the electricity to the customer at a lower rate than the utility charges through what’s called a power purchase agreement. We look forward to construction starting in October 2019 and the building coming online in July 2020.
Twedt: The Dell Medical School District is a good example how green trends are playing out in our projects. The district received six sustainability-focused certifications in five different rating systems, including sustainable SITES Initiative, which promotes the creation of sustainable built landscapes that reduce demand on natural resources and sustain healthy ecological systems and LEED Gold certification for three of the district’s buildings. As the lead engineering team for the project, we designed a central utility plant for all power, cooling and water throughout the district. The centralized system reduces the district and overall campus energy consumption, contributes to environmental protection efforts and reduces the institution’s carbon footprint.
CSE: How are engineers designing these kinds of projects to keep costs down while offering appealing features, complying with relevant codes and meeting client needs?
Piluski: The key is close communication with stakeholders, end users and the entire design team early in the process to determine exactly what is needed in an effective design and then to blend this with code–required design criteria. Advanced planning will identify high–cost items early in the process while possible lower cost alternates can still be vetted as acceptable solutions.
Twedt: We’re helping our academic clients develop new standards, reduce costs and provide customizable environments for the students. It’s important to perform energy studies and life cycle cost analyses for various features to evaluate the correct systems for a client’s project budget. Since many of innovative features can cross multiple disciplines, these types of studies are evaluated early in the project design phase to ensure the design team is taking a holistic approach.
Wegner: We are approaching more and more projects as design-build with early onboarding of MEP subcontractors. Applying lean construction practices revolves heavily around planning, communication, goal setting and continuous value engineering exercises. To keep costs down, we continuously benchmark our design against the client’s budget and apply true value engineering versus a major cost-cutting exercise at the end of substantial design completion.
Holden: Communication is a key to this. Understanding what the client’s objectives and needs really are makes translating them into solutions that align engineering best practices and code requirements at more cost-effective rates. By clearly communicating ideas and concepts to the rest of the design and construction team allows for more accurate pricing feedback. We’re also designing these systems using data-driven design and testing design scenarios, exploring options and optimizing the application of the right systems that achieve the functional needs without creating a cost overrun.
O’Connell: Working on a project with an integrated design team that includes a construction manager allows for continuous check and balances with the proposed design and estimated cost to install such systems.
CSE: How has your team incorporated integrated project delivery or virtual design and construction into a project?
Wegner: CRB provides 3D architectural and engineering designs in using Autodesk Revit and other building information modeling coordination tools with use of virtual reality as a standard on all projects. Our clients respond quite positively to immersing them into their projects before we reach a point of “no turning back.”
O’Connell: Using IPD allows the project team to collaborate throughout the design. The owner defines the owner’s project requirements along with input from the design team. This results in a process where the knowledge of all team members is maximized to meet the OPR.
Twedt: As an integrated architectural engineering firm, our design approach combines BIM and building performance analysis results to “remodel things less,” better capitalize on our architecture and engineering practices, proactively communicate performance opportunities and inform a data-driven approach to design. To facilitate this effort, we have been applying the ASHRAE 209 standard for energy-simulated aided design and working directly with Autodesk to beta test its integrated tools. The process has produced better communication between our teams as well as the tools to more clearly define the performance opportunity of systems to the clients.
Fryman: IPD is defined in myriad ways throughout the design and construction industry, with one common element — collaboration. We have experience in many interpretations of IPD, including fee-at-risk, based on the final construction costs and performance of the building. IPD leads to a team-based, collaborative approach where expertise is focused on achieving the owner’s goals without regard to the silos that exist between design and construction. Much of the waste in design comes down to finalizing decisions in a timely manner, when appropriate for the project, to enable each team member to design items once. In construction, they do not build something, then rebuild it; therefore, lean construction seeks to pre-plan as many elements of the construction as possible.
CSE: How are college and university buildings being designed to be more energy efficient?
Twedt: We are seeing more centralized systems that allow for user flexibility and also provide management override to ensure sustainability and performance goals are met. University of Texas Austin is a unique example in that it is self-sufficient and relies on central utility plants for all power, cooling and water throughout the campus.
Wegner: While we have had great success with alternative energy solutions, I strongly believe it is no substitute for good engineering practices. When it comes to energy, designing with the mantra “reduce before you produce” is most important. The greatest energy reduction at the “typical” college and university building is around outside air quantities. We often default to single-pass air for laboratories with any quantity of chemicals, but with good risk management and increased controls, we can sustainably reduce the outside air load and associated energy use. Consider the following solutions:
- Minimize air change rates: Increased air exchange rates above six to eight air changes per hour start to have diminishing return. There are applications where higher air changes are necessary, but this is often misapplied. Further reduction during unoccupied hours, perhaps as monitored by occupancy sensors and additionally tied to lighting controls, will yield significant savings.
- Specify variable air volume: This saves heating, cooling and fan energy, which can contribute to well over 50%% of a laboratory’s total energy consumption. California’s Title 24 (2019 edition) Building Energy Efficiency Standards Section 140.9(c)1 requires VAV controls for most laboratory spaces found in colleges and universities.
- Shut the sash: The safest fume hood is a closed fume hood. Continually training and educating new fume hood users to close the sash when not used is difficult at the least. And automatic sash closures are often overlooked by mechanical designers and lab planners; however, California’s Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards Section 140.9(c)4 now requires automatic sash closures tied to presence sensors.
- Actively monitor air quality: As previously mentioned, air changes have an immense impact on fan energy, chilled water loads and reheat energy. The purpose of air changes is to remove the off–gassing of volatile organic compounds accumulated from the space and exchanging with clean outside air. By actively monitoring air quality, when volatile organic compounds are not present, the outside air exchange rates may be reduced accordingly.
Fryman: Buildings are being designed with 100% LED lighting, demand–controlled ventilation, DOAS units with energy recovery from the building exhaust and variable frequency drives controlling large motors. Energy modeling is performed early in the design and repeated with more detail as building components are specified. Appropriate decisions are made with the architectural team with regard to glazing and other envelope properties to provide the most efficient building design.
Piluski: Many state college and university governing boards have mandated a “design toward” LEED Silver goal or similar, to establish a guideline not only for energy efficiency but also for the goal to incorporate the overall sustainable and occupant comfort and health experience aspects of such certifications into the project. As such, energy–efficient solutions are considered early on in the design process to establish systems and approaches known to be improvements in order of magnitude over the baseline systems considered in LEED v.4, ASHRAE 90.1 and others.
Holden: Many campuses are simply becoming more efficient in how they use space. Classroom and learning-space scheduling has become a critical function, making more efficient use of the spaces whether newly built or existing. The data from this scheduling has also allowed us to optimize ventilation as we recognize that some spaces go unused at times due to their specific functions or since their use may be mutually exclusive with the use of another space where students are present. Recognizing the sometimes-transient use of these spaces allows us to only provide full ventilation (a major component of energy use) when and where necessary.
O’Connell: An energy model can be used to evaluate the building as a whole from the envelope to the systems that support it. This allows the IPD team to select building components that will have the largest energy impact while taking the project budget into account.
CSE: What is the biggest challenge you come across when designing such projects?
Fryman: Designing systems to meet the owner’s expectations and the stringent requirements of the building codes, while maintaining the budget provided by the construction manager. One of these things typically has to give and unfortunately it is usually the owner’s expectations, since the other two can usually not vary. This can result in a disappointed owner.
O’Connell: Many educational institutions have distinct design standards based on traditional systems that have been used for many years. Some of these standards are antiquated and do not take into account emerging technologies. Spending time with the facility operators during design so that they fully understand the operation of new technologies is critical. This allows them to become more comfortable with maintain and operating these systems post occupancy.
Holden: One of the biggest opportunities is to challenge our industry to design and commission systems that are simple, robust and functional at project completion to limit the burden on the facilities/maintenance staff. There is often no increase of capital budget for maintaining campus facilities as new spaces come online as well as no increase in staff as new facilities are built. This is just one more aspect of system selection that needs to balance emerging technologies with proven methods.
Piluski: Higher costs and longer schedules are often associated with the pursuit of any official track for certification. The stakeholders must be made aware of these extended timeframes and efforts early in the project to avoid frustration later in the process. If pursuit of an official certification track is not mandated by the funding or governing body, I have recommended incorporating sustainable and energy–efficient aspects of LEED and other certifications into the design without actually pursuing certification.
CSE: What is the typical project delivery method your firm uses when designing these a facility?
Sherman: In the Southeast, we are still seeing the majority of our university projects being delivered in the traditional design-bid-build methodology with a construction manager. In North Carolina, most of the construction managers are writing a contract with the state off a pre-guaranteed maximum price cost. The pre-GMP sets their fees but does not lock them into a true GMP with the owner. Because of a lack of subcontractor availability, it is very difficult for the CMs to be held to a true GMP. One of our projects recently switched from a true GMP to a pre-GMP because the construction manager knew that the lack of subcontractors was going to adversely affect the bids. It was just too much risk for them to absorb. Nationally we are seeing a lot more IPD or design-build. Many of our West Coast projects have a combination of design-build and design-bid-build depending on the ability of the subcontractors in that market.
O’Connell: The typical delivery method our firm has seen is the design-bid-build method. Oftentimes we have found owners willing to choose a construction manager early in design to assist with document review and constructability analysis. Using their experience can assist the design team in producing documents, which is more complete and reduces potential change orders that may arise during construction.
Holden: All delivery methods have their advantages and disadvantages and we will apply the best method for any specific project. We are starting to see design-build delivery methods becoming more popular with a request for speed-to-market and keeping cost down. The potential concern with this delivery method is quality of service. To eliminate the concern, our company’s philosophy is to bring architecture, engineering and construction in-house so that we have better control over the overall project success with regard to scope, schedule, budget and quality of work.
Fryman: Most of my experience in the higher education market has been provided with the construction manager at risk delivery method. The CM is selected shortly after the design team and immediately begins to work with the design team, providing preconstruction services for budget estimates, constructability reviews and design assist functions. The CM that understands the campus environment, campus design and construction standards and specific user needs can recommend directions in design that are not “off the reservation” and that could cause the design team to have to push back and create more work for all in defending their stance. Though a CM could and should recommend variances in the campus standards if they are very beneficial to the project, they should be aware when what they are suggesting is outside of the standards and be prepared with information as to why it is valuable to the owner to deviate from their standards. This helps the design team by not having to vet out options that may never get past the college or university’s standards keepers.
Piluski: With funding from various possible sources involved, including state funding, local referendum and self-funded projects, delivery methods vary based on the individual source requirements. Projects funded by outside government entities may require and benefit from IPD, with a construction management firm partnering with the A/E team from the outset and managing timeframes and budgets. Smaller projects funded from college or university internal budgets have more flexibility, however in these cases our projects have trended toward design-bid-build as the conventional pathway.