Constructing college, university buildings wisely

Engineering mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP), and fire protection systems in colleges and universities requires designers to look toward the future of postsecondary education, and consider all aspects of a building and its occupants.


Aravind Batra, PE, LC, LEED AP, Principal, P2S Engineering Inc., Long Beach, Calif. Courtesy: P2S Engineering Inc.Craig Buck, PE, LEED AP, Associate, RMF Engineering, Charleston, S.C. Courtesy: RMF EngineeringJeffrey R. Crawford, PE, LEED AP, CCS, Vice President, Director of Higher, Education & Research Market, Ross & Baruzzini Inc., St. Louis. Courtesy: Ross & Baruzzini Inc.

Andre M. Hebert, PE, BEMP, LEED AP BD+C, Principal, Senior Mechanical, Engineer, EYP Architecture & Engineering, Boston. Courtesy: EYP Architecture & EngineeringSergiu Pelau, PE, LEED AP, Principal, Syska Hennessy Group, New York City. Courtesy: Syska Hennessy GroupScott Robbins, PE, CEM, LEED AP BD+C, Senior Vice President, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, Boston. Courtesy: WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff


Aravind Batra, PE, LC, LEED AP, Principal, P2S Engineering Inc., Long Beach, Calif.

Craig Buck, PE, LEED AP, Associate, RMF Engineering, Charleston, S.C.

Jeffrey R. Crawford, PE, LEED AP, CCS, Vice President, Director of Higher Education & Research Market, Ross & Baruzzini Inc., St. Louis

Andre M. Hebert, PE, BEMP, LEED AP BD+C, Principal, Senior Mechanical Engineer, EYP Architecture & Engineering, Boston

Sergiu Pelau, PE, LEED AP, Principal, Syska Hennessy Group, New York City

Scott Robbins, PE, CEM, LEED AP BD+C, Senior Vice President, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, Boston



Figure 1: Engineers working on the Aztec Center student union building at San Diego State University incorporated a rain-harvesting system. It consists of two buried tanks used to store rainwater that is used for site irrigation. Courtesy: P2S EngineeringCSE: Please describe a recent college/university project you've worked on.

Aravind Batra: The recent project we worked on involved a new student union building (Aztec Center) at San Diego State University that achieved U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum certification. The building included meeting centers, retail spaces, student support centers, ballrooms, theaters, and offices. The team included CannonDesign as the architect and P2S Engineering as the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) and technology engineer. The design included a number of sustainable elements including radiant cooling and heating systems, energy-efficient lighting and occupancy and daylight controls, rainwater harvesting, and high-efficiency toilets.

Craig Buck: RMF was recently involved in designing a new 66,000-sq-ft facility at Clemson University called the Watt Family Innovation Center. The building was designed with group collaboration and flexibility in mind, using a raised-access floor system with demountable wall partitions. There is a large atrium across the front length with a large LED media mesh screen across the front exterior. The LED media mesh screen is 210x24 ft with LEDs on 4-in. centers. The building includes innovative technology and connectivity to other areas on campus as well as the ability to share information with other groups across the globe. The design team includes RMF Engineering Inc. (MEP engineer), Perkins + Will (architect), 4SE (structural engineer), Dutton Engineering (civil engineer), DataCom Design Group (IT/security), BrightTree Studios (AV), and Turner Construction (construction manager).

Jeffrey R. Crawford: Ross & Baruzzini recently completed design of mechanical, plumbing, fire protection, and audio/video (AV) systems for a $40 million reconstruction and renovation of the Lafferre Hall Engineering Complex at the University of Missouri in Columbia. The project included the demolition and reconstruction of roughly 51,000 sq ft of engineering laboratory and laboratory support space and the renovation of approximately 68,000 sq ft of classroom and office space, as well as mechanical infrastructure upgrades to other areas in the complex that includes building additions ranging from the year 1892 to 2009. The project will create highly flexible state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms to support a wide variety of research and teaching activities and equipment. Numerous sustainable features were incorporated into the design, and technology is a critical feature in the classrooms to facilitate student group interactions with faculty and entities outside the building complex. The design team included Treanor Architects (lead architect), Peckham & Wright Architects (architect of record), Antella Engineering (electrical engineer), Structural Engineering Associates (civil engineer), and Tarlton Corp. (construction manager).

Andre M. Hebert: The Steidle Building Renewal at Pennsylvania State University in State College consisted of a total renovation and addition to the 1931 Steidle Building to house the Department of Material Science and Engineering. When completed in spring 2016, the project will encompass 105,000 gross sq ft of research and teaching labs, offices, classrooms, meeting rooms, and collaboration spaces. The labs include 79 high-performance fume hoods and other specialized ventilation systems to support the research and teaching mission. EYP was responsible for all architectural and MEP design.

Sergiu Pelau: We've recently completed Cornell Gates Hall building in Ithaca, N.Y., providing MEP, high-performance building design services, and architectural lighting design services. The building is approximately 100,000 sq ft, and its primary focus was to consolidate the Departments of Computer Science and Information Science (CIS) together in one facility. The building comprises computer classrooms, computer laboratories, offices, an auditorium, and collaboration spaces. It features convenient workspaces organized around an open atrium space encompassing four levels, and a covered entry plaza providing a space for social interaction outside. The building architecture was designed by Morphosis and built by Welliver. The design team also included structural, civil, IT/AV, acoustical, sustainability and code consultants.

Scott Robbins: One of the more interesting projects currently in construction is a major renovation to a Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The building opened more than 50 yr ago. It was in need of major MEP systems and architectural upgrades. Due to the unique translucent-marble-panel exterior skin, special HVAC systems are necessary to minimize condensation issues at the fa├žade while maintaining required humidity levels for the six-story book-stack glass enclosure within the building. It requires special air-handling units (AHUs) and well-thought-out location of air distribution within the space.

CSE: What business development techniques are you using to gain such clients and/or projects?

Batra: The techniques we use to gain such clients include highlighting our extensive experience in the education sector, our sustainable design experience, promoting our organization in the various professional organizations that our personnel attend to enhance their technical knowledge, availing networking opportunities at the various conferences we attend throughout the year, and offering excellent service and innovative technical solutions to our clients.

Pelau: This was our second building we've designed in collaboration with Morphosis after the New Cooper Union building in New York City, which was a challenging, fun, and successful project. As a result, we've developed a close relationship with them, and Morphosis also opened its New York office during this time. When this new opportunity came along, we've teamed to pursue it. From my perspective, we are winning most of the new projects based on our past experience with our clients by exceeding their expectations and ensuring they are successful.

Robbins: There are no special business development techniques involved in gaining or sustaining clients. Communication is the key. As engineers, we should enhance the project without getting in the way of the client and architect's vision. By reviewing multiple systems options, we can work with clients to choose the best solutions for their needs.

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