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SmithGroup project profile: University of Texas at Dallas, Engineering & Computer Science, West Building

University of Texas at Dallas, Engineering & Computer Science, West Building, Richardson, TX

By SmithGroup August 13, 2019
SmithGroup_UTD 1: Next Generation Facility — Education of America's next generation of engineers gathers together instructional and research labs, classrooms, office and collaborative spaces into a new campus hub that will create an iconic new edge to a growing campus.

Engineering firm: SmithGroup

2019 MEP Giants rank: 30

Project: University of Texas at Dallas, Engineering & Computer Science, West Building

Location: Richardson, TX, U.S.

Building type: Educational facility, research facility/laboratory

Project type: New construction

Engineering services: Automation, controls; electrical, power; energy, sustainability; fire, life safety; HVAC, mechanical; lighting; plumbing, piping

Project timeline: May 2015 to July 2018

MEP/FP budget: $1,620,000


The University of Texas at Dallas Engineering and Computer Science West Building has experienced exponential growth, more than doubling in size from 2008 to 2015 and projects a tripled student enrollment of 8,000 by 2020. The program required a ‘next generation’ facility to accommodate their rapid growth of faculty, student population and innovative research programs. The addition of the next generation Engineering and Computer Science West Building was designed to meet these needs.

The building program includes specialized instructional lab and classroom spaces for undergraduate studies in addition to advanced research, teaching and student learning environments that foster interdisciplinary collaboration. A mix of high-bay, wet and dry labs support three specialty research areas: energy, robotics and nano-bio, with additional labs for core researchers.

The project is LEED Gold certified with the U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC 3.0.

Prefabricated Penthouse — Central AHU serves the entire building. The unit weighs 500,000 lbs, built in 16 sections, lifted and bolted in place on a structural roof curb.


Building Envelope The building’s calibrated envelope uses transparency to display the program’s innovative teaching and research spaces, exposed structure, glass elevator shafts and color-coded building systems capitalize on the building as a machine allowing it to be used as a teaching tool for engineering.

3: Flexible Building Chassis — Air and hydronic based environmental conditioning. Active chilled beams are placed in high cooling load spaces and condition 28% of the buildings sensible load.

Exterior glazing low-E coatings were selected to minimize solar heat gain. Ceramic frit patterns were added at locations receiving lower-angle sunlight to reduce overall gain. Electrochromic glazing is used at strategic locations on the highest solar gain west and south exposures. The electrochromic coating automatically tints throughout the day using photo-sensors. This dynamic approach allows both clear unblocked views and daylighting during hours with indirect sun and up to a 99% level of tinting during direct solar hours.

Flexible Building System Chassis The HVAC system selected utilizes a combined air and hydronic based environmental conditioning strategy to provide the most efficient means to deliver space environmental control while providing ultraflexibility to support capacity needs for future changes in program use. The hydronic cooling system consists of active chilled beam units, which produce up to 28% of the building sensible cooling load. Chilled beams are placed in the high sensible load spaces. The thermal environmental conditioning of these high sensible load spaces is optimized do to the highly efficient transport energy effectiveness of hydronic cooling (900 X) over air systems. The building’s flexible chassis approach allows for easy integration of advanced building technology solutions over the life of the building.

Pre-fabricated Penthouse Unit A central pre-fabricated penthouse unit serves the entire building. At 4,500-square-feet in area and weighing 500,000 lbs., it was built in 16 sections, lifted and bolted in place on a structural roof curb. The penthouse unit contains two Air Handling Units (90 kcfm each) that operate in parallel to meet the building environmental conditioning requirements. The centralized air handling system approach also provided a convenient means to capture cooling coil condensate water in a 700-gallon recovery tank to serve as makeup water for the building laboratory reverse osmosis purified water system. The penthouse also contains the Laboratory Exhaust Air Unit made up of (4-fans 60kcfm total capacity) centrifugal up blast fans.

Lucid Building Systems — All building systems are color coded to be expressed and understood by students as a learning tool.

Lighting Systems

The lighting design utilizes advanced long-life Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology and controls to support the function of spaces and create seamless transitions within the facility. The building accent and site lighting all have dimming controls to fine-tune luminance ratios and meet general illumination criteria. Daylighting sensors are used throughout the building to lower lighting levels when natural lighting is available to achieve 0.76 watts/SF interior LPD, 24% below the required energy code. Dual technology passive infrared and ultrasonic occupancy/vacancy sensors are used to provide automatic shut-off control of lights.

Next Generation Facility

The Engineering and Computer Science West Building is an expression of a vibrant interdisciplinary collaboration in engineering offering academic student learning environments and the connection to innovative research and industry to solve real world problems.

Engineering Beacon — The nearly triple-height volume main entry lobby presents itself as a glowing and welcoming beacon to campus. The space combined with a second-floor overlook and student terrace above, serve as a campus living room, gathering spot and formal event space. A straight-forward yet strategic lighting approach accentuates and enhances building form and materials