The Greening of the FDA

Until now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's laboratories and offices have been far-flung and fragmented, to say the least. The FDA currently occupies space in more than 40 different buildings in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. To make matters worse, many of these facilities are in leased spaces that are not ideally suited for their occupancy and use.

By Donald G. Posson, P.E., CIPE, LEED 2.0 Accredited Professional, Engineering Design Principal, Kling, Philadelphia November 1, 2003

Until now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s laboratories and offices have been far-flung and fragmented, to say the least. The FDA currently occupies space in more than 40 different buildings in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. To make matters worse, many of these facilities are in leased spaces that are not ideally suited for their occupancy and use.

That’s all scheduled to change soon. When complete, a new FDA campus in Montgomery County, Md. will consolidate operations into 3 million sq. ft. housing more than 6,300 employees. In fact, the first two phases of this five-phase consolidation are already well underway, with the first phase scheduled to be completed and occupied by the end of this year. Currently under construction is more than 600,000 sq. ft. of state-of-the-art laboratory, vivarium, office and office support space.

But consolidation is only part of the story. The entire campus is being designed and constructed as a green project and is expected to serve as a model of energy efficiency and sustainable design.

In the LEED

In an effort to meet the sustainability requirements set out by White House Executive Order 13123, “Greening the Federal Government Through Efficient Energy Management,” issued in 1999, all phases of the consolidation are being designed using the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. This includes fundamental building systems commissioning for each building and storage and collection of recyclables at central locations. It also means meeting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s best management practices for site sediment and erosion control, as well as complying with the minimum requirements of ASHRAE 62, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality, and ASHRAE 90.1, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. One of the first challenges in using LEED for such a large-scale project was deciding whether to go for a single LEED certification for the entire campus, or to register and track the buildings individually—each with a potentially different LEED version. A major problem with the whole-campus approach was that design and construction could take up to 10 years to complete. With ever-changing LEED standards, such a certification could be difficult.

As a result, it was decided that each building would be registered individually and tracked with the LEED version current at the beginning of the building’s design. Once the final phase of the entire consolidation project is complete, an overall LEED evaluation will be provided.

That’s the big picture for the consolidation project. The heart of sustainability, however, is in the details. One system in particular—the cogen power plant for the campus—is an important part of the green program.

Choosing cogen

LEED certification calls for aggressive energy-efficiency strategies, one of which is a cogeneration plant that can generate all the power the campus requires. For added reliability, the local utility will back up the cogen plant, with two separate 13.8-kV feeders providing utility power.

The current plan is for the final cogen plant configuration to include five 5.8-MW dual-fuel-fired (natural gas/diesel) engine-driven generators. Because only one of these generators is being installed in the first phase of central plant construction, another 2-MW diesel generator is being supplied to serve all standby and emergency system power requirements for the first two phases of campus construction.

Waste heat from the generators will be recovered from the engine water jacket and lube oil systems to produce 200

Finally, another 10-MMBTUh boiler will eventually be added to complete the central hot water system. Along with the 90 MMBTUh from the generator waste heat, there will be a 130-MMBTUh total capacity. Firm capacity with one engine and one boiler not operating is 102 MMBTUh.

Hot water will be distributed from the central plant to all buildings on campus through a network of concrete pedestrian/utility tunnels. To decrease the pumping energy required, the system was designed for a 60

Waste heat will serve the cooling system, as well. Heat recovered from generator exhaust stacks will fire 1,130-ton hot-water absorption chillers to base load the campus chilled-water system. During the initial phase of central plant construction, the plant will include one absorption machine and two 1,130-ton high-efficiency electric centrifugal chillers but will be configured to accommodate one additional absorption chiller and four additional 2,000-ton electric centrifugal chillers in the future. And the piping will be designed to allow for replacement of the two 1,130-ton chillers with 2,000-ton models in the final construction phase. All of this will finally provide a chilled-water capacity of 12,000 tons.

Like the central hot-water system, the chilled water will be distributed to all buildings through the combined pedestrian/utility tunnel system. To optimize pumping energy, the chilled-water system was designed for a 20the winter, but also allows chilled water coils in 100% outdoor air units to be used as pre-heat coils.

Interestingly enough, the cogen plant is a major departure from the original 1997 master plan, which called for a more typical chilled-water plant relying on electric centrifugal chillers and a central steam plant utilizing dual fuel-fired steam boilers. Proposed in late 2001 by the General Services Administration, the cogen idea is the result of a U.S. DOE Energy Savings Performance Contract provided by San Diego-based Sempra Energy Solutions.

Bringing a lab to life

The first phase of the FDA Consolidation construction was the 110,000-sq.-ft. Life Sciences Laboratory, which incorporates laboratories, offices and a vivarium in a single building for the life science-related laboratory programs within both the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) and the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). Although the building design was started utilizing LEED 1.0, the building was registered during the construction document phase under LEED 2.0 and is currently tracking a silver certification level. Substantially completed in October 2003, the facility boasts sustainable features such as the following:

  • Aggressive daylighting with nearly 90% of offices and laboratory spaces exposed to natural sunlight.

  • Occupancy-sensor controlled lighting for all perimeter offices.

  • Low-mercury lamps in light fixtures throughout the facility.

  • Green roof design over the below-grade vivarium. Because landscaping was not included in the scope of the first phase of construction, the roof was designed with concrete pavers on adjustable pedestals that would be replaced with a green roof in a future phase.

  • Economizer and energy-recovery system, combined airside and waterside, that uses the cooling coils within the 100% outside air laboratory air-handling units as pre-heat coils during the winter.

By setting the chilled-water control valves to a 100% open position and utilizing the 45AHU supply temperature is within a couple degrees of the normal leaving air temperature of the unit during summer. This difference in supply air temperature is accommodated by slightly upsizing the hot-water reheat coils at the VAV boxes for winter operation. The fan energy saved by not having a hotwater face-and-bypass preheat coil year-round is significant. Also, the lower chilled-water return temperature—as low as 35ºF—is mixed with the higher chilled-water return temperature, typically 59ºF from re-circulated AHUs in other buildings on campus. This provides a mixed returntemperature to the central plant that, at times, requires no chillers to run, and in some cases, actually requires heat to be added to the chilled water system to maintain the 45ºF leaving water temperature.

In addition, because the facility houses offices, CO2 monitoring of the return air from office spaces was incorporated to verify that adequate indoor air quality was achieved for office workers.

And finally, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling was performed for the animal hold rooms to optimize the supply diffuser and exhaust intake locations. With this modeling, a high exhaust scheme was demonstrated as the most efficient, which reduced ductwork and overall building area by eliminating furred low-exhaust chases in walls.

On to phases two and three

The second phase of construction includes an office facility totaling more than 500,000 sq. ft. for CDER. The building is currently under construction and slated for completion in November 2004. The CDER office building is also tracking a LEED 2.0 silver certification level.

The third phase of construction is currently in the design development phase. This includes the Engineering/Physics Laboratory, which at 140,000 sq. ft., incorporates laboratories and offices in a single building for the engineering and physics laboratory-related programs within the CDRH. The building, which is being designed using the new LEED 2.1 standard, is tracking a silver certification level and is scheduled to start construction during the first quarter of 2004. Some sustainable features of the building, in addition to those found in the Life Sciences Laboratory, are waterless urinals and total energy-recovery wheels that recover sensible and latent energy from the general laboratory exhaust air streams and transfer it to the outside air stream of the central air-handling systems.

Sustainable revolution

The sustainable aspects of the FDA consolidation are clearly a result of a revolution over the past few years within the building industry, significantly influenced by the USGBC’s LEED rating system. For the new FDA campus, the process has been as much evolutionary as revolutionary, moving from LEED version 1.0 to 2.1. The enthusiasm and success of the sustainable design process have come as a result of much collaboration with associate firms and specialty consultants. Because the GSA has also challenged the design team to continue to raise the bar on sustainable design in the future phases of the FDA consolidation, the design team is continuing to investigate improvements to the building, site and system approaches for future.

For a detailed description of the second and third phases of this project, see this story on the web at .

Birth of a Master Plan

Consolidation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s facilities was proposed by Congress in the FDA Revitalization Act of 1990, which authorized the Department of Health and Human Services and the General Services Administration to plan, design and construct new centralized facilities.

This effort resulted in planning for three sites: one in Montgomery County and two in Prince George’s County, Md. The largest of these three—in Montgomery County—consolidates the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, the Office of the Commissioner and the Office of Regulatory Affairs. The campus is located at the Federal Research Center in White Oak, Md., formerly the site of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, White Oak Detachment, which closed in 1995.

In 1996, GSA commissioned Kling, in association with the A/E firm RTKL, to prepare a master plan as part of the first phase of work for the White Oak site. A master plan was completed in 1997, and the design for the first phase of construction, the Life Sciences Laboratory, was started in the spring of 2000. Concurrent with the design of the first building on campus, a master plan update was executed and completed in 2002. This update was required to reflect changes within FDA’s programs. At the same time, it allowed the team to address a renewed interest in sustainable design approaches for the project, such as increased structured parking on site to reduce site disturbance and impervious coverage, an increased emphasis on the reuse of existing historic buildings and a much greater focus on energy efficiency.

Along with these important sustainable campus strategies that were part of the master plan update, GSA embarked upon an aggressive demolition-recycling program for campus buildings that would not be reused. By bringing a portable crusher on site and using crushed demolition material as backfill, an estimated 300,000 tons of waste was diverted, and a 96% recycling rate was achieved.