Designing a Modern, Highly Efficient Research Laboratory: Applying Old Concepts to New Technology

Jeremy Barrette, Affiliated Engineers, Inc.
Monica Perrin, Arizona State University

Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute Building C is a new, multi-functional research facility designed to meet the University's growing need for additional laboratory space to secure and perform high-quality research. The building predominantly consists of labs, lab support, lab equipment alcoves, write-up spaces, office spaces, conference/meeting spaces, high bay lab spaces, and laser lab space. The new facility has five above ground levels and one below grade level, and a penthouse that serves as a mechanical equipment room, with a gross building area of approximately 189,000 sf.

This building will be a highly functioning, workhorse laboratory building, enhancing interdisciplinary research from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and the Biodesign Institute. It will provide high-quality wet lab space for chemistry, engineering, and the biological sciences. Capitalizing on the success of the public spaces and core facilities in adjacent facilities, this building is intended to provide maximum space for experimentalists for research and collaboration. In addition to being highly efficient from a space utilization standpoint, ASU gave the design team a goal to be at least 50% more efficient than their campus research facility EUI average of 428 kBtu/sf/yr. In order to meet the University's energy performance goal, the design team employed a series of high performance laboratory design concepts which included decoupled ventilation and cooling utilizing chilled beams, combined general and lab exhaust, and high performance fume hoods. Also implemented was the use of variable volume control of the chilled beam supply airflows, high performance hoods and combined lab exhaust. The use of variable volume airflow is not a new energy saving concept, as it became mainstream in the 1990's, but the application of variable volume control for chilled beams, lab exhaust and high performance fume hoods is the next evolution of high performance lab design.

This case study will review the recent acceptance of lower air change rates within research laboratories and how this change enables the application of variable volume control, including the impact on design of a chilled beam system. The implications of applying variable volume control to high performance hoods will be discussed. The analysis of variable volume lab exhaust, including the wind modeling performed, will be presented. Finally, a review of the energy performance results for Biodesign Institute Building C will be presented.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the design implications of acceptance of lower air change rates within laboratories.
  • Understand how variable volume control can be successfully applied to a chilled beam system within a laboratory.
  • Plan for use of variable volume controls on high performance fume hoods.
  • Review how a holistic wind model can inform variable volume laboratory exhaust design and operation.


Jeremy is a mechanical engineer with than 20 years of mechanical engineering, product development, and project management experience focusing on the design of mechanical products and control systems for higher education, research, laboratory, industrial and healthcare clients. His responsibilities at AEI include project management and mechanical systems design from concept development and systems evaluation through construction document completion and construction phase project support.

Monica is a Senior Project Manager with Arizona State University Capital Programs Management Group who was responsible for the Biodesign C building from programming through closeout. Her experience ranges from mechanical engineering, utility construction, and environmental air quality to project management. Monica champions sustainability in new science buildings for the university as a goal to increase energy efficiency and reduce usage requirements of valuable resources.


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