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The Evergreen State College Lab 1 Basement Remodel

The Evergreen State College

FSi is the mechanical engineer for renovation of the basement of The Evergreen State College’s Lab 1 Building. The 14,742 sf laboratory is used for research and teaching. FSi’s original scope included upgrades of HVAC, HVAC controls, plumbing and piping, lab ventilation and gases, and fire sprinklers.

In our pre-design conversation with occupants and maintenance personnel, and our visits to the building, we learned that there were ventilation problems throughout the building. We learned ventilation rates, essential to maintaining clean and safe lab conditions, were difficult to control, and fume hoods in the labs were frequently in alarm mode as a result. The building also had drafts and air movement that the occupants couldn’t control. In a corridor between the Lab 1 and adjoining Lab 2 buildings, the drafts were so strong that doors in the corridor wouldn’t close.

These problems had all the hallmarks of a building pressurization problem. The problems were not limited to the basement, where our remodel was to take place – conditions were similar throughout the building. We knew that unless we identified and resolved the larger pressurization issue, any system we installed in the basement was likely to continue to have problems. In fact, building occupants told us other floors of the building had been recently renovated, and continued to have these problems. We talked with the college, and together we decided it didn’t make sense to move ahead with our project unless we could first figure out and fix the building-wide problems.

We worked with the college to conduct a thorough investigation of the building. We found that each floor in the building had its own separate HVAC system, designed and installed as funding had been available, without taking into account the building function as a whole. These individual systems were not functioning together, and were in fact often working at cross purposes with one another. As we suspected, we found that pressurization was unbalanced on individual floors, and in the building as a whole. We provided the college with both interim and long term solutions to improve building performance, and the college added the short-term fixes to the design and construction scope of our project. Resolving these longstanding, building-wide issues increased the construction budget by just 2%, far less than if the college had made the upgrades under a separate design and construction contract.

We upgraded the building’s primary exhaust fans, added additional fans, and created an airlock between the Lab 1 and 2 Buildings to prevent air movement between the buildings. Once we resolved the worst issues and understood likely future upgrades, we were able to design HVAC systems for the basement that would perform well under both current conditions, and once the upgrades are made. In addition to the HVAC, system we designed specialized laboratory systems, including fume hood exhaust and piping for laboratory gases, de-ionized water, compressed air, vacuum system, and natural gas. The project includes installation of a large aquarium, for which we provided de-ionized water and ventilation.

FSi is proud that with our proactive, big-picture approach, this project will provide improved building performance, and better environment for learning and conducting experiments.

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