Dissecting the Anatomy of an Energy Efficient Experiential Learning Space

Greg Smithmyer, PE, Affiliated Engineers Inc
Lloyd Fisk, AIA, Research Facilities Design

Completed in 2017, the Congdon School of Health Sciences and Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy Building at High Point University in High Point, NC houses a wide variety of innovative health-science-related programs and associated facilities. Amongst these is a 9,000 square-foot gross-anatomy instructional laboratory suite. Key goals identified for the design of this gross anatomy suite were to meet the University's programmatic and functional requirements in a way that provided flexibility, allowed for clear lines of sight from teacher to student, encouraged student/faculty interaction, and minimized formaldehyde exposure while reducing energy usage.

Space planning for the design of the gross anatomy teaching laboratory suite started with developing a strong understanding of the University's programmatic and functional requirements. Some questions addressed in this process included: Do the users need embalming capabilities? Is on-site refrigerated storage required? How will donor bodies be delivered to the building and transported to the lab? Where will specimens be stored? How will students observe a teacher's demonstration? This session will review the space planning process and how key design decisions were made on the project.

To highlight the impact that anatomy lab room configuration can have on formaldehyde exposure control, this session will include information on several typical anatomy lab configurations. Results from Computation Fluid Dynamic (CFD) models will be presented to illustrate the efficacy of typical anatomy laboratory configurations with respect to the control of formaldehyde exposure levels. The session will then discuss how CFD analysis - in conjunction with the programmatic and functional requirements described above - led to the room configuration used on the project.

The energy intensity of gross anatomy labs is often underestimated by owners undertaking these projects. The typical rule of thumb for anatomy labs is to provide 25 air changes per hour (ACH) to meet the design temperatures in the space and to effectively control odors. However, several strategies exist for safely reducing air change rates in anatomy labs. Substantial energy use reduction can be accomplished by using manual switches, occupancy sensors, touchscreen controllers or a facility monitoring system to decrease air flow below 25 ACH when appropriate. This session will include building automation (BAS) trend data that demonstrates the impact of providing touchscreen controllers and a facility monitoring system to adjust air change rates in this teaching lab.

Learning Objectives

  • understand the programmatic and functional requirements utilized in space planning for a gross anatomy teaching lab.
  • be able to review computation fluid dynamic (CFD) models to understand how anatomy lab room configurations impact the ability of the mechanical system to effectively control odors.
  • be able to identify multiple strategies for reducing air change rates in an effort to significantly reduce energy use in anatomy labs.
  • be able to review Building Automation System (BAS) trend data in order to understand the impact that reducing air change rates has on anatomy lab energy use.


Greg Smithmyer's project experience includes healthcare and higher education facilities, laboratories and data centers. Mr. Smithmyer's experience has been a mixture of new construction, building renovation and integration of renovated and new construction spaces. He also has significant experience in whole building energy analysis for LEED documentation, design alternative comparisons and life-cycle cost analyses.

Lloyd Fisk, AIA is a Principal at Research Facilities Design, and leads RFD's Raleigh office. Mr. Fisk's entire career has been dedicated to the planning and design of high-technology facilities for academia, industry, and government. This experience has included projects across the United States and Canada, in the Middle East, in Asia, and in Europe. These projects have ranged from single undergraduate instructional laboratories, to specialized RD projects exceeding 500,000 square feet.


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