Sundt Uses Innovation to Raise the Bar on “Green” Laboratories

 |  Laboratories & Healthcare, Sundt News
Artist's rendering of the new Vet Med 3 building at UC Davis

Contrary to Muppet wisdom, being green is actually getting easier – even for complex research facilities like the new $37.5 million Vet Med 3 building at the University of California, Davis. That’s because advancing technology and innovative approaches are helping project teams achieve exacting technical specs while meeting ever-increasing sustainability goals.

The 118,000-square-foot, four-story facility, being built by Sundt, contains state-of-the-art laboratories, administrative space and offices to serve the research needs of multiple departments in the health sciences. Although it isn’t complete yet, the project has already been awarded the California Energy Efficiency Partnership’s Best Practice Award in Best Overall Sustainable Design in 2009 for design and construction innovations. It is also on track to achieve LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“The building was designed in a fully integrated manner to provide very high performance at a low operating cost,” says Sundt Project Manager Joel Witt. “We’re using a sophisticated energy model to help demonstrate the cumulative effects and inter-relationships of each and every design choice while allowing us to measure how changes and substitutions could affect the building’s overall performance.”

Take, for example, the project’s energy-efficient HVAC system, which brings outside air into the building and regulates indoor air temperatures with active chilled beams. Using this type of heating and cooling method in a laboratory setting is unusual – and innovative – because laboratories require very high levels of control, especially when they’re combined with office spaces.

“Negative air pressures have to be maintained within the labs so that contaminants don’t escape,” Joel explained. “Some areas, like the fume hoods, require even tighter controls. All of the various levels of containment have to be monitored and managed through very technical means. Introducing chilled beams for heating and cooling creates an active, dynamic system that is elegant in its simplicity while providing the university with the greatest possible efficiency. In order for the chilled beam system to work in this kind of setting, everything must be very precise. It all comes back to the fully integrated design represented by the energy model.”