M.E. GROUP Inc.: UMKC Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

New construction at an educational facility.

By M.E. GROUP Inc. August 14, 2014

Engineering firm: M.E. GROUP Inc.
2014 MEP Giants rank: 100
Project: UMKC Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship & Innovation
Address: Kansas City, Mo., U.S.
Building type: Educational facility
Project type: New construction
Engineering services: Electrical/power, fire/life safety, HVAC/mechanical, lighting, energy/sustainability, and plumbing/piping
Project timeline: 11/1/2011 to 8/1/2013
MEP/FP budget: $5,000,000


At the beginning of the project, several challenges were identified that would influence the design of the HVAC systems:

  • The performance of the HVAC systems should exceed ASHRAE Standard 90.1 (2007) energy usage by 50%.
  • HVAC system chosen should not be a radical departure from what the university personnel are familiar with operating.
  • System must be able to respond rapidly to changing occupancies and accommodate the flexible teaching environments.
  • The budget for the project was limited.
  • The lighting power density (LPD) was targeted to be less than 0.86 W/sq ft in a facility with great architectural details and higher ceiling while using conventional T8 lamps as much as possible.
  • Power distribution through the underfloor plenum for adjoining space plug loads and lighting in spaces below were required to eliminate exposed electrical conduits in spaces with limited acoustical ceilings.
  • Smoke detection and compartmentalization of the three-level atrium was required.
  • Coordination with multiple consultants on specialty lighting, technology, audio/visual, acoustic design, and owner requirements produced an ever-changing coordination situation.


During schematic design, M.E. GROUP provided modeling for the analysis of building configuration and construction methods that would be responsive to the local climate and site conditions. This work identified several energy-saving strategies that were incorporated into the overall building design. Even though the final design had a 25% skylight/roof ratio (compared to a 5% ratio in the base ASHRAE 90.1 model) for daylighting of the interior three-story atrium, the peak cooling load was reduced by approximately 5% and the peak was shifted several hours later in the day. The alternative system that was used was a 100% underfloor, variable-air-volume distribution system that incorporated displacement air principles to maximize “fresh air” into the breathing zone of the spaces. This system complied with the owner’s comfort factor and budget while providing enhanced energy and space comfort performance. Two large VAV air handling units (AHUs), located in the lower floor mechanical room, provided conditioned air to the entire building and relief air for building pressurization control. Chilled water was received from the campuswide variable flow system, and the AHUs were equipped with pressure-independent two-way control valves for precision operation. Hot water was generated at the building by three high-efficiency natural-gas condensing boilers producing 140 F supply water temperature. A dedicated boiler controller operated all boilers as a single system to maximize the overall boiler efficiency. An extension of the campuswide building management system (BMS) ensures energy-efficient operation of the HVAC systems. M.E. GROUP overcame the lighting power density hurdle by using energy-efficient luminaires coupled with control strategies that combined energy savings and student/faculty flexibility. Every space in the building was simulated using lighting software and was analyzed for direct, direct/indirect, and indirect lighting strategy. Control strategies included motion and occupancy-based control as well as daylight harvesting. Rough-in location for all the ceiling luminaires and ceiling mounted control and wiring devices had to be identified early in the process before the lighting and power design was completed to avoid future core drills through the slab. The firm was able to overcome this by prioritizing the design of components that needed to be hosted to ceiling in close coordination with the contractor. Smoke detection and compartmentalization of the atrium were accomplished by using fire curtains. Due to the unique shape of the atrium/amphitheater, a combination of beam-type and spot-type smoke detectors had to be used to activate the fire curtain. Simultaneous communication with all the subconsultants and stakeholders was the key to staying on track with the budget while adapting to changes. Several times, changes in lighting affected A/V design, and vice versa. The firm was able to identify conflicts as early as possible during the design-build and make necessary changes with minimal impact on the disciplines and the budget. The resulting systems achieved energy cost savings of 32% when compared to the ASHRAE 90.1% baseline.