High-performance medical and educational building design

The design of high-performance medical and educational projects are challenging and need to meet specific standards, codes, and trends.


Joseph A. D’Alù, PE, LEED AP, CEM, Division Manager, RMF Engineering,Charlottesville, Va. Courtesy: RMF EngineeringTG Davallou, LEED AP, Partner, Alfa Tech Consulting Engineers, San Francisco. Courtesy: Alfa Tech Consulting EngineersSean Donohue, PE, LEED AP, Director, Colorado Springs, Jensen Hughes, Colorado Springs, Colo. Courtesy: Jensen HughesAnthony B. Preteroti, Associate Vice President, CannonDesign, Grand Island, N.Y. Courtesy: CannonDesignTeresa Rainey, PE, LEED Fellow, Director of High-Performance Design, EYP Architecture & Engineering, Washington, D.C. Courtesy: EYP Architecture & Engineering


Joseph A. D'Alù, PE, LEED AP, CEM, Division Manager, RMF Engineering, Charlottesville, Va.

TG Davallou, LEED AP, Partner, Alfa Tech Consulting Engineers, San Francisco

Sean Donohue, PE, LEED AP, Director, Colorado Springs, Jensen Hughes, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Anthony B. Preteroti, Associate Vice President, CannonDesign, Grand Island, N.Y.

Teresa Rainey, PE, LEED Fellow, Director of High-Performance Design, EYP Architecture & Engineering, Washington, D.C.


Figure 1: Here, a rendering offers an aerial view of the State University of New York at Albany Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurship Complex, a high-performance campus project executed by CannonDesign. Courtesy: CannonDesignCSE: What's the No. 1 trend you see today in the design of high-performance campus projects?

Joseph A. D'Alù: While a clients' focus and vision can shift from reliability/redundancy to performance-based depending on building type and use, the biggest push in our practice today is energy optimization. This trend is well beyond the campus office/classroom/housing occupancies and is now integrated into the critical-environment sectors (health care, research and development, etc.). Historically, we have collaborated with owners focused on critical environments' function; energy was often an afterthought. Today, each new project or client challenges our engineering team in a unique way to exceed baseline and prescriptive energy management. Whatever the incentive is, energy efficiency is king.

Sean Donohue: We're seeing the migration/implementation of a "unified platform" approach, using the campus' existing information technology network and information-management software to bring multiple and diverse monitoring, control, and operational systems—such as fire/life safety, physical security, logical security, and building management/environmental systems—into a single, unified operational system.

Anthony B. Preteroti: From an electrical perspective, LED lighting is the top trend. LED lighting offers a higher efficiency than its fluorescent predecessors. LED drivers often have inherent dimming capabilities, offering more control and improved daylight-harvesting ability. New standards and manufacturer options have made LED lighting a more viable, holistic solution.

Teresa Rainey: Our college/university clients are seeking design solutions that address both sustainability and resiliency. Integrating renewable onsite generation capabilities reduces greenhouse gas emissions and provides a level of grid independence that enables continued operation if there is an interruption in the utility grid. We are integrating end-use metering so our clients can monitor energy and water, which provides them the capability to reduce usage over time.

CSE: What other trends should engineers be aware of for high-performance campus projects in the near future?

Donohue: Look for the growing trend toward the use of varied "information/control"-capable devices. The phrase "Internet of Things" (IoT) is the most common term and essentially means that anything that can be connected to the Internet or a network will have the ability to upload and download information. This will impact security and operational controls of various systems that are now coming together under a unified platform.

D'Alù: Aside from energy and sustainability, I see the next 5 years of our practices trending toward a few key realities including integrated project design and buildings as energy consumers and generators. The slow but certain elimination of the "contractor-only" coordination process will drastically change the owner-architect-contractor team relationship. It's happening already, with increasing numbers of construction manager at-risk and construction manager design-assist procurements as part of our process each year. While the contractor-only coordination process has been a competitive endeavor, the integrated design process will stitch together the efforts of all the project players—and the results may be extraordinary. Achieving higher levels of energy efficiency can often mean increased capital costs. With input from all project players and agreement on precise scope, cost estimation can be more accurate. We're certainly facing an energy-management crisis and we'll either muscle our way through it with enormous national power-infrastructure upgrades or we'll leverage engineering abilities to reduce or eliminate the power shortcoming. For high-performance campus building projects, there are some unique possibilities including the ability to centralize utilities and benefit from campus building diversities.

Rainey: A trend we see is the development of intelligent building software, IoT wireless sensor technologies, and the cloud, which will enable building systems to respond in real time to actual occupancy and space use, predictive weather forecasting, and microclimate occupant-comfort controls along with many other capabilities to further drive energy reduction while also ensuring occupant comfort and well-being.

Preteroti: Look for addressable lighting control systems. As codes and standards become more stringent, they require a system, like addressable lighting controls, to effectively meet the requirements of criteria such as demand-response and receptacle controls. With the widespread use of LED lighting, these system types are more useful and effective. Another trend to watch for is resiliency. Campuses generally contain services and facilities that require 24/7 operations, such as student housing, research facilities, and medical centers. Other major trends include shared services, outside campus partnerships, and energy efficiency. A high-performance building contains and creates environments serving multiple functions and may even be shared among departments.

CSE: Please describe a recent high-performance campus project you've worked on.

Preteroti: Our firm currently is designing the Emerging Technologies and Entrepreneurship Complex (ETEC) at the State University of New York at Albany campus, in conjunction with the State University Construction Fund. The 236,000-sq-ft facility will house laboratory space for research, classrooms, collaboration spaces, faculty offices, and private-partnership suites. The facility has several sustainable goals including being net zero ready, achieving 200 kBtu/sq ft/year for labs and 38 kBtu/sq ft/year for offices, and incorporating 13% renewable energy sources. Multiple gas generators will provide backup and emergency power with redundancies. Still under client review are roof- and site-mounted photovoltaics (PV), LED lighting and an addressable lighting control system, high-efficiency condensing boilers with N+1 redundancy, three magnetic-bearing water-cooled chillers with N+1 redundancy, a high-performance variable air volume system, and air handling units with full economizers that will be folded together. An alternate geothermal heat pump system will also be evaluated.

Davallou: We provided mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering services for a new general classroom facility that is approximately 100,000 sq ft. The project was designed to a minimum LEED Gold standard.

Donohue: The project involved multiple buildings for a medical-services campus. The buildings being constructed were both inpatient and outpatient clinics and included a long-term care facility. The new buildings' communication systems were to be network-based, using a dedicated dark-fiber security network that is centrally controlled and monitored from a security operations center. The systems included both physical security (video surveillance, physical access control, intrusion, intercom communications, emergency communication system, detection equipment) and life safety/fire alarm systems.

CSE: Describe your experience working with the contractor, architect, owner, or other team members in creating a BIM for such a project.

High containment laboratory realized utilizing IDP principles. (this is DCLS BSL3) Courtesy: Andrea Hubbell Photography.

Donohue: The most significant challenges were the coordination of all the systems and structure to accommodate the client's shifting physical structure and operational requirements. The process mandates strong leadership and adherence to stated objectives.

Davallou: We had a very good working relationship with the team on the Mission College project. We coordinated and designed the daylighting, thermal comfort, and façade thermal analysis through BIM.

D'Alù: Complicated renovations are a large part of our business. We're currently involved in a project for a major health care client to renovate patient-care areas to meet modern environmental and architectural standards. Complicating the task even further is the notion that the renovations are to be made while the client maintains full occupancy. The ability to create and phase all facets of the construction through BIM has been invaluable to the project, and all team members have contributed to this success.

CSE: Have you designed any projects using the integrated project delivery (IPD) method?

D'Alù: The concepts of IPD have been at the forefront of our practice. Our clients are seeking innovative solutions driven by two primary factors: the design team's understanding of new technology and our lessons learned through our vast resume of completed projects. The latter can be greatly enhanced when you combine it with the construction manager's own experience, which is the heart of IPD's value, in my opinion. Our team has been working closely with a regional, government research facility that needs to update a variety of critical program areas that provide lab analysis services to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Each project can accurately be described as time-critical, where a loss of functionality for an extended period of time is intolerable. This series of projects has been highly successful, due in large part to the high level of collaboration among the owner, the design team, the code officials, and the contractor. Hallmarks of the process have included scheduled BIM reviews for coordination and constructibility, a high level of interaction with the end users and the design team, flexibility on the part of the owner, entertaining product and technology alternates, and the commitment of all parties to the owner's vision for the project's success.

CSE: What unusual requirements do high-performance campus projects have from an engineering standpoint?

Rainey: When evaluating appropriate systems for a project, the boundary moves beyond the building and considers interrelationships between other buildings on campus to understand the overall impact on energy and water consumption and peak demand. We also develop a path for future projects and/or adaptability for new technologies that will enable clients to achieve climate-based commitment goals.

Donohue: Integrated systems are sometimes at odds with their individual stated objectives. As is often the dichotomy between fire alarm and security, the former may be telling a secured door to unlock. The entire system must effectively communicate to prioritize and adapt between stated objectives, despite multiple operational platforms.

Davallou: They sometimes have PV, battery storage with dc/ac conversion, geothermal space, and chilled-water thermal storage.

D'Alù: In the course of sustainability, benchmarking new and renovated buildings that are served by campus utilities (district chilled water, heating hot water, steam, power) can be a challenge. This stems from the fact that dollars are often the stated final comparable when judging a building's achievement in energy efficiency. Campus clients are most often the recipients of the best fuel-rate structures, and these relatively low unit costs can often skew the real energy-saving strides that, if expressed in units of energy, would show far greater baseline-to-design improvements.

CSE: Describe the commissioning process for a campus project. At what point was your team brought in, and what changes or upgrades were you able to implement on this campus?

Davallou: For Mission College, which was LEED Gold-certified, we had a third-party consultant for enhanced commissioning. There were comments regarding equipment optimization and maintenance that were implemented in the construction documents.

Donohue: The process involves the typical operational testing and commissioning of the individual systems. However, the process expands to verification of the data sharing and operational response, based on the systems involved and the expected responses required by the master plan.

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