Finding the Balance: Systems Integration for Seamless Coordination in a Multifunctional Education Facility

Mohammed Haq, Wood Harbinger

North Seattle College's existing Allied Health and Technology Building underwent a major renovation that included a 22,900 SF remodel and 23,100 SF rooftop addition. The resulting 46,000 SF multiuse Health Sciences and Student Resources (HSSR) Building is LEED Gold certified and opened for classes in the Fall of 2014. This presentation will highlight the innovative design and coordination strategies used by the project team to prioritize energy efficiency, maintain a balanced building environment, and support the building's aesthetic as a revitalized and centralized campus focal point.

Up-Front Planning for Optimum Coordination: The glazing-heavy envelope design and diversity of the building's uses led to a variety of conditions that the mechanical systems in particular would need to accommodate. The first floor was remodeled to include general classrooms and tutoring areas for the college's Learning Center, a student commons area, and full café. The new second floor is dedicated to the Human Biology and Science Center, with specialty healthcare learning labs central to the college's health, medical, and science programs. The simulation environments including anatomy, physiology, biology, and cadaver labs recreate real-world conditions for students studying nursing, allied health, and science fields. The building becomes one fluid space through a central atrium with a grand staircase that connects the two floors and creates a dramatic focal point. These interwoven complexities required comprehensive, up-front system planning and communication with the project stakeholders.

System Integration for Seamless Operation and User Experience: The building utilizes two distinct and different mechanical systems, operating on different HVAC principles: the existing built up air handling unit system was converted to a variable air volume (VAV) system to serve the first floor of the building. Chilled beams and a 100% outside air with heat recovery system serve the new upper level, with heat recovery and exhaust pressurization controls for the specific needs of the cadaver lab spaces. The challenge was to assure these two systems worked together seamlessly. Through tightly written sequences of operations, strategic balancing of the systems, and carefully coordinated advanced building controls, the VAV and chilled beam systems are well-behaved and environmentally controlled, blending together in the background to serve the physical needs of the building without occupants being aware of any environmental differences floor to floor. This level of coordination supports the holistic feel of the building environment and, true to the vision of the building, presents a seamless and integrated user experience.

Learning Objectives

  • Recognize the benefit of early collaboration between the Owner, architect, and engineers to identify opportunities for innovative and cost saving solutions.
  • Analyze the challenges of incorporating specialty laboratory systems and spaces into a multi-use building.
  • Demonstrate how building controls can be utilized in an advance way to integrate separate building systems to achieve a level of coordination that supports a holistic building environment while maximizing energy efficiency.
  • Describe the challenges of designing and constructing a project that incorporates renovation of an existing building as well as new construction integrated with it.


Mohammed Haq is Vice President of I2SL's Emerald City Chapter and Associate Principal of Wood Harbinger's Mechanical Engineering group. He has 15 years' experience providing mechanical design for HVAC, plumbing, and specialty lab systems for colleges and universities, hospitals, data centers, and municipal and industrial facilities. Mr. Haq is a keen project manager and also an innovative thought leader, with multiple articles published in Wood Harbinger's Insights blog.


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