Students, tech, COVID drive higher ed design

College and university building design is being driven by student needs, technology and new air quality demands

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer October 27, 2020


  • Patrick McCafferty, PE, LEED AP, Associate Principal and Education Business Leader, Arup, Boston
  • James Michael Parrish, PE, Associate Vice President, Department Manager Electrical, Lighting, Technology, Dewberry, Peoria, Ill.
  • Tom Syvertsen, PE, LEED AP, Project Manager, Associate, Mueller Associates, Linthicum, Md.
  • Kristie Tiller, PE, LEED AP, Associate, Team Leader, Lockwood Andrews & Newnam Inc. (LAN), Dallas
  • Randy C. Twedt, PE, LEED AP, Associate Principal/Senior Mechanical Engineer, Page, Austin, Tex.
  • Casimir Zalewski, PE, LEED AP, CPD, Principal, Stantec, Berkley, Mich.

What’s the biggest trend in college and university buildings?

Kristie Tiller: Due to COVID-19, the biggest trend in college buildings right now is indoor air quality considerations. These considerations include enhanced filtration, disinfection technology and increase in air changes per hour.

Tom Syvertsen: Energy efficiency has been the trend for a long time, but now, in light of current circumstances, occupant wellness is the current focus. Many temporary or even permanent, modifications to promote wellness greatly impact energy-saving strategies, but are being deemed more important, at least for now. We are also seeing open, collaborative, flexible spaces that can be used in a variety of ways. This trend leads to different design challenges in terms of providing the appropriate heating, ventilation and air conditioning or connectivity solution (electrical, information technology, etc.). We have also seen concerns over utility requirements for future growth and flexibility. This trend requires us to not only look at the owner’s current program, but to have discussions with faculty concerning what types of programs they envision over the next five to 10 years.

Randy C. Twedt: The incoming generations of students grew up in technology-rich environments where they often exert 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. Thus, the systems increasingly need to provide technology-rich, customizable environments and also allow management to override customization to control for efficiency.

Casimir Zalewski: Every higher education project seems to be looking for a collaboration or gathering space. These spaces typically see individuals connected to social media, websites or groups of people who want to share a story or discuss what they’ve learned or know. In any instance, the theme is that people are looking for a comfortable space where they can connect. That connection can be virtual or physical, but the space needs to exist. It needs to be comfortable, it needs power, it needs Wi-Fi and there is typically a desire for close proximity to some type of food or beverage. In short, the biggest trend is to create a space that is familiar and comfortable to the occupants where they can make a connection.

Patrick McCafferty: Arup has seen education clients around the world respond similarly to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools everywhere are working tirelessly to implement safety measures as quickly as possible in preparation for reopening as soon as possible. A critical component of reducing transmission risk is de-densifying classrooms and residence halls, but doing so has put new constraints on the number of students campuses can accommodate. This has forced many higher education institutions to adopt a hybrid teaching model that combines in-person and remote learning.

James Michael Parrish: Flexibility, technology and energy efficiency. We’re seeing a need for mobile furniture, less static room and multiple monitors on walls, which allow for students to create “groups.” Additionally, facilities should be designed and constructed with the intention of being maintained over the course of many decades.

Looking ahead, how do you think these buildings will be designed differently to meet new health challenges brought on by COVID-19?

James Michael Parrish: We expect to see more distancing, restricted personnel, more attention to ventilation and germ-killing systems, such as ultraviolet. Perhaps more voice command systems to eliminate touch, but this is just integrating product development.

Tom Syvertsen: At the project outset, the design team should encourage a meeting with the owner to discuss potential opportunities to implement strategies described in the ASHRAE Position Document on Infectious Aerosols. Some HVAC strategies have an impact on the architectural design and on energy consumption, so the HVAC engineer cannot make all the decisions regarding implementation of COVID-19 strategies unilaterally. It must be an integrated design process.

Examples of design features include air handling units with increased ventilation, which also increases energy consumption. The AHU control strategy can incorporate a pandemic mode that deploys only when the owner deems it necessary based on threat level and risk assessment. Features may also include AHUs with enhanced filtration and/or ultraviolet germicidal irradiation lamps. Both of these options will increase energy consumption, however. Lamp replacement costs will also increase. However, if placed in such a way that the UVGI performs cooling coil cleaning in addition to air stream disinfection, there can be some energy and maintenance savings, as the cooling coil partially offsets the added costs.

We can also design HVAC systems that incorporate humidification. This will also increase energy consumption and maintenance costs and requires architectural evaluation. In general, we will be adding in much more flexibility to our systems and buildings. This means adding different building automation control modes and additional space in equipment for future modifications. We will be focusing more on IAQ and air distribution.

Casimir Zalewski: Many energy saving features in buildings included reducing ventilation levels, total airflow or turning off equipment as soon as possible. Lights are also typically shut down as soon as possible. Room temperature and humidity are typically reset to save energy, if humification is designed or provided. While there is still much to learn about COVID-19, many of these energy saving features defy many current beliefs on what is best for occupants. I believe there will be more scrutiny on the importance of ventilation and filtration rates, the hours of operation of central equipment, passive disinfection solutions such as certain lighting sources and if future buildings will be designed to support humidification.

Patrick McCafferty: While it is still early to predict, we expect to see emerging trends in the adaptive reuse of existing buildings; a greater emphasis on digital solutions and campuswide digital master-planning initiatives; an increased focus on smart building technologies; accelerated adoption of online teaching technologies, involving enhanced audiovisual/IT capabilities and cybersecurity provisions; and the creation of flexible and adaptable buildings able to accommodate myriad configurations and uses. Moreover, universities are likely to focus their attention on the buildings and infrastructure they already have — maximizing the space potential of their existing assets before embarking on new-build alternatives. More specifically, we expect to see less demand for large lecture halls and other spaces designed to accommodate crowds in the future due to the shift to online and small group learning models, as well as the drop off in international enrollment triggered by governmental travel restrictions.

To help reduce COVID-19 transmission, what types of engineering solutions are you offering colleges and universities?

Patrick McCafferty: When it comes to containing the spread of the novel coronavirus indoors, maintaining high levels of air quality and air flow is critical. Essentially, the higher your HVAC system’s performance, the lower your risk of spreading the virus. Ideally, we could redesign all education buildings to be more resilient to viral outbreaks. Instead, we have to look at the specific constraints of each building and its systems, as well as code requirements and then reverse engineer the system to boost performance as much as possible.

Arup’s HVAC experts are working with a number of clients to institute measures to build their immunity to COVID. The changes being made are all aligned with ASHRAE’s COVID-19 prevention measures, but the mix of technologies used and the way they are applied tends to differ significantly from project to project. When it comes to HVAC risk reduction measures, there really is no one size fits all solution. We are also actively researching and developing computer models to help our clients determine how to integrate UVGI technology into their spaces for maximum impact.

James Michael Parrish: Review of ventilation rates and consideration for UV lighting. We’re also assisting clients with technology applications such as thermographic cameras for temperature screening.

Kristie Tiller: HVAC systems play a big role in the transmission of airborne diseases. Improvements to these systems we can expect to see are increases in outside air, increased ventilation and increased filtration. These are long-term solutions that will likely have an economic impact to the owner. College and university facilities, which are typically occupied during the day and stagnant at night, will start seeing an increase in energy usage because the systems will need to be flushed during off-peak hours to make sure the air is as clean as possible during peak hours. For several years, we have focused on energy-efficient systems and cost reduction. I expect a shift in this mentality and overall importance will be placed on effective systems.

Tom Syvertsen: There are many industry-acceptable strategies for reducing the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission, but the most popular ones we have recommended to our higher education clients relate to increased filtration, increased ventilation, proper control of relative humidity and the addition of UVGI lighting of ample intensity in the recirculated airstreams.

HVAC systems are considered by ASHRAE to be an important part of a multifaceted approach to reducing the potential for airborne transmission of infectious aerosols; design engineers can make an essential contribution through the application of the strategies included in ASHRAE’s Position Document on Infectious Aerosols. Ventilation is not capable of addressing all aspects of infection control, however.

HVAC systems, on the other hand, do impact the distribution and bioburden of infectious aerosols. For new construction, the design and construction team, including HVAC engineers, should engage in an integrated design process to incorporate the appropriate infection control bundle in the early stages of design. For existing facilities, engineers can perform assessments of existing HVAC systems to determine their capabilities and modifications to the equipment and operation required to implement ASHRAE’s recommended strategies for reducing the transmission of diseases through infectious aerosols.

We have worked with several higher education clients, notably Loyola University of Maryland, to conduct HVAC assessment audits and, for projects already in design for Frostburg State University, George Mason University and others, we have worked with the owners to address some of ASHRAE’s recommendations.

Randy C. 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.

What future trends should engineers expect for such projects?

Randy C. 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.

James Michael Parrish: Energy efficiency: The 2030 Challenge is something we’re beginning to see more attraction toward. Besides that, the International Energy Conservation Code and ASHRAE Standard 90.1 both have common goals, but are getting more stringent every year. Some states have their own energy codes. For example, California’s Title 24 is the most stringent in the U.S. and it seems that many other codes are beginning to head in that direction. Codes are generally updated every three years and energy budgets tend to come down year to year.

Casimir Zalewski: Engineers need to understand where these special spaces may exist where the occupant might feel the most comfortable and do everything possible to future proof these hidden gems in buildings. The future seems to focus on the idea that connections and learning can happen anywhere. Many universities ask design teams to make all the typically programmed spaces flexible and adaptable. The future trend is the space between destinations may continue to become more important. It is the engineers’ responsibility to make sure the infrastructure in these transient spaces support tomorrow’s technology and the technology of the future.

Patrick McCafferty: We anticipate that even after the pandemic has resolved, this hybrid teaching model will stay with us for a number of reasons. People will quickly become acclimated to having a remote-learning option and there is likely to be high demand for alternative learning models among adults looking to reskill in the wake of the recession. This latter trend is also likely to increase enrollment at smaller, local colleges.

In many ways, the shift to hybrid learning is a good thing. It will enable colleges and universities to expand their enrollments and reach a far greater number of students. Online enrollment could also help schools offset the revenue losses they are experiencing as a result of COVID-19. However, the hybrid pedagogical model has the potential to create a tiered student experience — providing a richer social and cultural opportunities for campus-based students than others. Colleges and universities will have to find creative ways to address this imbalance and keep their entire student body highly engaged to continue attracting high caliber students.

Kristie Tiller: Future trends include an added emphasis on better IAQ.

Tom Syvertsen: Optimizing wellness. For instance, how can we create healthy environments for living and learning while also doing so in an energy-efficient manner? This includes flexibility in space layouts and system design. Future pandemic events might also dictate a large classroom being reconfigured for a lower occupancy or segmented to reduce occupancy within the same room.

What are engineers doing to ensure such projects (both new and existing structures) meet challenges associated with emerging technologies?

Casimir Zalewski: Part of any design process involves research. Engineers typically have meetings and discussions with owners, maintenance staff, equipment representatives, factory representatives and other engineers to understand a project’s need and either provide a solution or recommended solutions to address the need. Each participant offers valuable information on technologies from the technology itself, to how it may be applied or installed and what is it like deal with after construction concludes.

Patrick McCafferty: Campus planners are doing a terrific job stretching their budgets to make their classrooms remote-learning ready in time for reopening. Arup is currently working with many higher education clients to rapidly equip their classrooms with the latest information technology and communications systems to deliver a better remote learning experience. Our advanced technology and audiovisual designers are working closely with higher education clients and others to find ways to enhance the quality of remote learning. They are also exploring ways to leverage advancements in sound design and video to deliver more fully immersive, sensory virtual experiences that allow the viewer to feel like they are in the room.

Kristie Tiller: One of our priorities is to ensure our engineers are aware of and trained to design with the latest technology. Every client is unique and engineers need to ensure they have the tools available to incorporate the best solutions. Specifically, LAN does a lot of design for the renovation of existing systems. Many of these systems are older and the technology is outdated and doesn’t meet current code. Our engineers are skilled at replacing these systems with newer, more efficient technology, while maintaining building operation and reusing the existing space.

Tom Syvertsen: We are actively researching and learning about emerging technologies every day and then passing this information onto our clients. It is important that we consider all aspects of emerging technologies, including proper application, code ramifications, maintenance and cost.

Randy C. 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.

Tell us about a recent project you’ve worked on that’s innovative, large-scale or otherwise noteworthy.

Randy C. 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.

Patrick McCafferty: Arup provided comprehensive strategies for Northeastern University’s new Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex. This U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold-certified, 234,000-square-foot facility includes a variety of laboratories and other research support spaces intended to promote collaboration and innovation across the fields of computer science, basic sciences, health sciences and engineering. In addition to helping Northeastern raise its profile within the scientific community and attract new talent, the project provides a pedestrian footbridge — an important new nodal link between the main campus, ISEC and the communities of Fenway and Roxbury.

Arup collaborated with Payette on both the new building and footbridge, providing services including structural/bridge; geotechnical; mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection engineering; façades; and lighting design consulting. It was important to the client that the ISEC embody Northeastern’s commitment to sustainability.

Arup and Payette collaborated closely throughout the design process to deliver a striking and highly energy-efficient building on a strict schedule. The cascade air system developed by Arup was the single biggest contributor to energy savings at the ISEC. The system works by recovering conditioned air from the ISEC’s offices and atrium and then transferring it to the lab. In addition to delivering significant energy savings over standard laboratory HVAC systems, the cascade air system helps to lower operations and capital costs through reductions in return ductwork.

Because ventilation load is a major energy use in laboratories, active chilled beams are used to provide additional cooling in place of air cooling. As chilled beams have no moving parts, they are a low-energy, low-maintenance alternative to fan coil units. To augment heating, we designed a hydronic run-around coil system that recovers energy from the lab’s exhaust air and uses it to precondition the outdoor air used for heating. A heat recovery chiller was also used to divert heat normally rejected to cooling towers to satisfy summer heat demands within the building

James Michael Parrish: Our office designed the first net zero police station in the country in Countryside, Ill., including on-site photovoltaic equipment and ground sourcing for heat. The project wrapped up about nine months ago and we regularly monitor the energy use versus production to compare against predictions.

Kristie Tiller: Currently, we are working on a renovation project for the Corporate Solutions Department at a college in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. This project is significant in that it is not your typical student/classroom-based college design. This project focuses on a service area that promotes relationships with corporate clients. This space will ultimately serve as a meeting and training space for the college’s corporate clients and includes a conference center, instructional classrooms, hands-on training space, vision rooms and executive level office space. Incorporating all of these diverse elements into one space has allowed our design team to use innovative architectural solutions. This project is one of the top three projects for the college currently.

Casimir Zalewski: At Central Michigan University, we recently completed their new Biosciences Building, a $95 million research and teaching facility. My colleagues Derek Crowe, Bill Chomic and Mickey Walsh led the mechanical, electrical and architectural efforts, respectively. The project included four floors of research laboratories along with a mechanical penthouse that housed a majority of the HVAC systems. Each floor includes multiple central mechanical and electrical rooms that house floor level distribution equipment to limit the need to access the space above the laboratories. The research laboratories were designed to have clean spaces on the perimeter with more exhaust intensive spaces on the interior, while the research benches in between the clean perimeter and interior equipment rooms used a modular design that maximized flexibility between researchers. Ventilation and equipment loads were decoupled to reduce total energy usage. The decoupling process also allowed critical rooms to be maintained during reduced or standby power modes.

Tom Syvertsen: Bowie State University’s new Center for Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Nursing is a 149,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art sustainable structure that addresses diverse academic and interdisciplinary programs, housing instructional labs, nursing simulation suites, classrooms, offices, a lecture hall, informal learning and study spaces, along with a greenhouse. The multipurpose “Beacon” is a three-story, elliptical space that anchors the building’s south elevation, signaling the university’s commitment to scientific studies and research.

To date, it has received more than 20 local and national architecture, engineering and construction awards. The LEED-platinum building features a number of cutting-edge systems designed to optimize building performing and energy efficiency. Chilled beam technology — ideal for many laboratory environments — uses water to conduct thermal energy, supplementing conditioned air with ceiling-mounted chilled water heat exchangers rather than controlling space temperature by using only conditioned air.

The use of the chilled beam system provided another key benefit in design: the ability to reduce the overall building height. As a result of the smaller ducts required for the system, the design team was able to reduce the height of the second and third floors by 1 foot each, netting an approximate savings of more than $300,000. This savings offset the higher first cost of the chilled beam system and lowered the overall life cycle cost for the building as a whole.

Mueller’s team designed a multiparameter demand controlled ventilation system that samples the air in the laboratories and only increases the airflow based on the direct measurement of the carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, total volatile organic compounds and airborne particulates. If the parameters are below the maximum levels, the airflow remains at the minimum safe quantity, realizing increased energy savings.

Other innovations include the use of 25,000 square feet of dynamic glazing along the facade, a system that minimizes solar heat gain by automatically changing the glass from clear to tinted to nearly opaque depending upon daylight conditions.

How are college and university buildings being designed to be more energy efficient?

Tom Syvertsen: Part of integrated design is working as a team to limit the heating and cooling loads at the outset of the project, whether that involves building orientation and fenestration, exterior shading, high-performance envelope materials, energy-efficient lighting and controls, energy-efficient equipment within buildings or other such measures. The best way to save heating and cooling energy is to reduce the amount of heating and cooling the building needs in the first place and then layer in the high-efficiency systems to condition the spaces.

Casimir Zalewski: Today, there is a much better understanding of sustainable practices and many integrated design firms have engineers included in the design from the very earliest phases. During programming and conceptual design phases, we’re seeing more focus on building siting and massing to optimize the building before any systems are even selected. Thermal massing, daylighting studies, comparative heating and cooling load analysis and energy models further refine the early building design. Careful review and analysis of envelope materials and joining methods along with field testing and quality control have greatly reduced building energy losses. Today’s codes mandate more sophisticated control systems that continuingly monitor the building and reset, reduce and turn off systems and equipment where possible. Increased involvement of third-party commissioning agents has also helped reduced energy usage through functional testing and control algorithm verification.

Patrick McCafferty: In recent years, Arup has seen university campuses around the country make a concerted effort to walk the talk when it comes to sustainability. Many of our higher education clients have made significant investments in sustainable campus projects, spanning from high performance buildings to campuswide masterplans. We are also seeing more colleges and universities setting ambitious carbon neutrality goals and moving away from a reliance on traditional fossil fuels. Given the growing awareness of the urgency of climate action, we fully expect this trend to continue — in part because the next generation of students is beginning to demand action. We anticipate that forward-thinking higher education institutions will use this time of transition to transform and commit themselves to a new and much more sustainable future.

Kristie Tiller: Typically, there is huge energy savings based on proper scheduling for HVAC and lighting systems during unoccupied times. With the new measures being taken to prevent spread of airborne diseases, much of this energy savings is lost with buildings needing to be flushed during unoccupied times. The balance between energy savings and providing the cleanest air to building occupants as much as possible can be extremely delicate.

Randy C. Twedt: We are seeing more centralized systems that allow for user flexibility but also provide management override to ensure sustainability and performance goals are met. University of Texas at 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.

How are engineers designing these kinds of projects to keep costs down while offering appealing features, complying with relevant codes and meeting client needs?

Tom Syvertsen: We often perform lifecycle cost analysis at the onset of a project to compare different systems and select the one that is most cost effective and the best fit for the owner. When cost estimates exceed budgets, we actively work to design changes that can save costs without any sacrifice to quality or performance. Many of our projects receive state or local funding. For example, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, all state-funded higher education programs must follow the guidance of the Division of Engineering and Buildings and their Construction and Professional Services Manual. The manual requires a full LCCA of at least three systems by the completion of preliminary design.

Randy C. 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 LCCA for various features to evaluate the correct systems for a client’s project budget. Because 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.

Casimir Zalewski: Innovative projects have a need that may focus on a particular technology or operation. In industry, there are many products and design solutions that may meet the client’s need, but every region is different from the technology’s representation and acceptance as well as the local trade professionals understanding and exposure to a specific innovative technology. More and more, design teams are collaborating earlier with construction managers and trade professionals to better understand any concerns or opportunities on applying a certain innovation. Engineers act as a bridge between many groups to help achieve innovation by finding the technology the closest meets the client’s desired features while balancing the trade professionals’ comfort with the technology’s installation and availability to keep cost in check.

Kristie Tiller: The best way is to work very closely with the owner and end users of the spaces we’re designing. While this doesn’t reduce the cost of the systems and equipment being put into the space, we are more quickly able to identify exactly what our clients need, therefore saving them money during the design process and eliminating change orders during construction.

How has your team incorporated integrated project delivery or virtual design and construction into a project?

Kristie Tiller: All of our projects are designed using 3D computer aided design. This allows us to coordinate across all disciplines in the same model, thus saving coordination time during construction.

Tom Syvertsen: Some of our projects have had contractors that use VDC as a core part of their process. We have been involved during the construction phase by providing our design intent models to the contractors to aid in their coordination process. We also participate in the VDC process with the contractors by attending coordination meetings and viewing federated models to help solve any coordination problems that arise. This process leads to a quicker outcome as all parties can solve a problem together versus the traditional linear process of communication.

Randy C. Twedt: As an integrated architecture and engineer 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 ASHRAE Standard 209: Energy Simulation Aided Design for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings 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.

What is the biggest challenge you come across when designing such projects?

Kristie Tiller: The biggest challenge we come across when designing energy-efficient systems is explaining to the owner first cost versus return on investment. Typically, more energy-efficient solutions have a higher initial cost but their payback period is much shorter. This can sometimes be hard for owners to comprehend and accept because all they see is the effect on their construction budget. It is our job as engineers to ensure they receive all the facts associated with the more energy-efficient design and help them understand that it is a sound long term-investment.

James Michael Parrish: Getting direct information from the client. Universities have standards and it’s important that we as designers have a full understanding of those standards and aren’t just receiving information second hand that could be inaccurate.

Tom Syvertsen: Capital cost. Although many proposed energy-reducing strategies come with a favorable LCCA, they may require additional capital up front. Many of our projects seem to teeter on that budget line, so finding additional funds can sometimes put those strategies on the back burner. Owners and their staff need to buy in on these energy-efficient designs early in the design process. It’s our job to educate the client on systems that will reap energy benefits; however, we also have to be cognizant of the types of systems they can maintain. Ultimately, it should be a joint effort to choose which strategies to employ.

What is the typical project delivery method your firm uses when designing these a facility?

Casimir Zalewski: There is not a typical delivery method as the delivery is one aspect of innovation. We have delivered the highest levels of LEED with design-bid-build, IPD, design-assist, design build and design-award-build. Each client, region, building typology, design professional and trade professional is different. Being flexible and understanding the client’s needs and the capability of all team members to work together to achieve the project’s vision can be as much innovation as the technology and systems applied to the project.

A recent science research building project at the University of Texas at Dallas started off as a traditional design-bid-build, but it quickly moved to a design-assist. Our team responded to the change by having the trade professionals attend the design meetings, including the internal coordination meetings. The design team would run sizing and routing by the trade professionals to minimize costs. The trade professionals provided insight on constructability based on their workforce and pre-fabrication shops capabilities to keep costs down to a minimum. Overall, the project was very successful and I look forward to any opportunity to team with the mechanical contractor on future endeavors.

James Michael Parrish: We do primarily design-bid-build. Our market involves many city, county, state and federal jobs, which are required to be competitively bid.

Kristie Tiller: Design-bid-build.

Tom Syvertsen: We are typically part of a design-bid-build project delivery or construction manager at risk. However, we have been part of design-build teams as well, and that is increasingly a trend in higher education and not just for housing or dormitory projects. For example, we recently worked on the construction of the new, 215,000-square-foot Patricia R. Guerrieri Academic Commons building at Salisbury University that was completed as a design-build. This was the first design-build project to be completed as part of the University of Maryland system. It’s the largest building on the campus, incorporating a library, student academic services, a faculty center, a graduate commons and the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture.

The 20,000-square-foot Nabb Research Center houses resources such as artifacts, maps, documents and survey records that date to early explorers and the Colonial era. The building’s central location and iconic carillon tower signal its importance as a new campus landmark. We worked closely with the contractor, architect and sub-contractors to design systems that were cost-effective, met project goals and complied with local codes. The project earned LEED Gold certification. The University of Maryland system, which oversees the design, renovation and construction of buildings on dozens of campuses across the state, has publicly declared most of its projects will use the design-build delivery method, as they view it more favorable, regarding schedule, cost and quality of design.

Also, we are increasingly noticing higher education owners explore or in some instances use the public-private partnership methodology. Given the current and short-term economic forecasts for higher education, we anticipate some higher education owners to look for creative delivery methods, like these partnerships, to address challenges associated with funding.