Dartmouth Energy Retrofits of Existing Lab Buildings - Cost Justification and Implementation Challenges: Dartmouth College Burke Hall Energy Renovation

David Madigan, van Zelm Heywood & Shadford, Inc.
Bo Petersson, Cornerstone Commissioning, Inc.

There are many millions of square feet of inefficient laboratory facilities in need of energy efficiency improvements. The main challenges is developing such projects have to do with making the economic justification and overcoming the hurdle of implementing the system upgrades within an occupied and functional facility. If properly analyzed, planned and implemented, such projects can represent a win-win solution providing benefits in terms of reduced operating cost/energy use /carbon emissions, capital renewal benefits, improved safety for researchers, reduced maintenance, increased reliability, reduced loads on campus utility systems, and improved environmental conditions. To justify deep energy efforts, all of these benefits must be recognized and quantified in an objective manner. When this is done, projects which are marginal based on energy cost savings alone become far more attractive and economically viable. The challenge then becomes implementing the work with a minimum distribution to ongoing research activities. This requires careful planning within both the design and construction phases along with an ongoing, dynamic commissioning process throughout construction and project close-out.

Burke Hall, Dartmouth's main chemistry facility, is an 80,000 sf building that was considered state of art when it was completed in 1989. However, with over 140 individual exhaust fans, no heat recovery system, 180,000 cfm of exhaust capacity & two steam absorption chillers, it was Dartmouth's most energy intensive building with an EUI of nearly 500 KBtu/sf. There were also numerous problems with the building HVAC equipment at laboratory airflow controls that needed to be addressed. After much planning and analysis the project scope was approved to include the following:

  • Replacement of the 140 individual exhaust fans with a consolidated lab exhaust system and high efficiency Glycol run-around heat recovery system
  • Replacement of two 550 ton system absolution chillers with two 850 ton electric chillers and interconnection with the campus chilled water system
  • Replacement and upgrade of lab airflow controls and building automation systems
  • Rebalancing or all airflows and commissioning of all equipment and controls

The work was implemented while the building was fully function and through careful planning and teamwork, had a minimal impact on laboratory operations. Energy use has been reduced by over 40%, while lab safety has been improved. Important lessons were learned about how to effectively implement such a project and these will be shared as part of the presentation.

Learning Objectives

  • Develop an understanding of the wide ranging benefits that can be obtained from a deep energy retrofit of a lab building.
  • Identify key target areas for cost effective energy use reduction in existing buildings.
  • Determine how to objectively quantify the non-energy related benefits of a deep energy retrofit to aid in project initiation/approval.
  • Understand the construction and commissioning challenges of implementing projects of this type in a fully occupied and functional building.


Dave Madigan, is a principal of van Zelm Heywood & Shadford Inc. of Farmington CT, a MEP consulting engineering firm specializing in the design of sustainable college & university facilities. Dave's experience includes the design/planning of high efficiency, sustainable laboratory facilities & the design/implementation of campus energy-wide conservation initiatives. He is presently overseeing the mechanical system design for the new 550,000 sf Science & Engineering Center at Harvard University.

Bo Petersson is a registered professional engineer and is the Director of Engineering Services of Cornerstone Commissioning of Boxford, Massachusetts. The firm is focused on commissioning laboratory facilities, and energy efficient buildings. In this role he has been involved in many cutting edge projects, many of them heavily focused on energy efficient operation. Bo's background in facilities operations have resulted in a hands on approach with an emphasis on fine-tuning of control systems.


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