Selected Highlights of the Labs21 2010 Annual Conference


The Norman Hackerman Building—Meeting the
Requirements of the Program, the Owner, and Mother Nature

Diane Hamlin, LEED AP, CO Architects
Brian Moore, HMG and Associates


The University of Texas (UT) at Austin's new Norman Hackerman Building (NHB) provides space for an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to education, research, and development for the College of Natural Sciences, including Neuroscience, the Center for Learning and Memory, and Organic Chemistry Teaching and Research. In addition to its demanding program, this sophisticated, laboratory-intensive building presented several challenges: it resides in a hot, humid climate, which places additional demands on cooling and heating; it required innovative design and engineering approaches to meet both project energy savings and a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold target; and its design had to conform to a prescriptive and historic campus vocabulary.

The program dictated over 250 fume hoods, which required a high volume of outside makeup air. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) outdoor air design points were required to be 98°F dry bulb and 80 percent relative humidity within the extreme Austin climate. In addition, heat recovery units were not allowed by UT due to past unfavorable experience.

Although UT imposes stringent requirements on each project, it is also proactive in developing campus infrastructure to aid in efficiency of systems, including measures such as:

  • Chilled water distribution system that passes into and through the NHB is fed from a 3 million gallon thermal energy storage tank.
  • All cooling coil condensate is routed to a central campus recovered water system, which furnishes makeup water to chilling station cooling towers.
  • The UT Austin campus produces its own power using gas turbine generators with waste heat exchangers producing more than half of required campus steam.
  • Following a two-year study, the University authorized use of high-performance fume hoods, reducing the maximum required makeup air by 70,000 cubic feet per minute (CFM).

From the beginning of design, the NHB incorporated proven strategies for energy savings and water conservation:

  • Variable air volume HVAC systems.
  • Local re-circulating cooling units for equipment rooms and high heat load spaces.
  • Cascading air from surrounding spaces into high fume hood density laboratories.
  • Variable frequency drives for all air- and water-moving equipment.
  • Daylighting system utilizing photocell sensors to control lighting levels.
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures.
  • City of Austin "purple pipe" reclaimed water system for irrigation.
  • Stormwater retention system.


Norman Hackerman Building
The Norman Hackerman Building at UT Austin

In addition to the above, several novel strategies were employed for the design of the HVAC and laboratory process cooling water systems. The main exhaust system for NHB was designed using five to 60,000 CFM capacity high plume fans, each selected for 4,500 feet per minute discharge velocity at maximum flow.  By cycling these fans and varying their speed, the facility achieved true variable exhaust flow that minimizes the wasted energy from exhaust plenum bypass damper operation.

The neuroscience research laboratories at the NHB will require approximately 150 gallons per minute of process cooling water for equipment cooling.  Because this building will produce approximately 12,000 gallons per day of 50°F–53°F condensate, the system design includes a process cooling water condensate pre-cooling tank with an immersion type heat exchanger. Estimated savings are 22,000 tons per hour per year of cooling.

The organic chemistry laboratories at the NHB have a high fume hood makeup air requirement (45 air changes per hour maximum, 25 air changes minimum) requiring dehumidified air entering each laboratory to be heated year-round to achieve comfort conditions. Because Austin has not only a humid climate but also a very sunny climate, the design team utilized solar water heating panels to supplement the building's normal heating water system. The result—a 15,000-square-foot (sf), roof-mounted vacuum tube water heating array that connects directly into the building heating water system—yields significant savings of approximately 1,800 million British thermal units per hour of heating energy.

The combination of these design measures in addition to the energy-efficient design of the UT campus systems have yielded excellent energy-saving results. Compared to an ASHRAE 90.1 base case model for this building, the NHB achieved 19 percent savings in outside air required, 31 percent savings in cooling energy, and 90 percent savings in heating energy. This project will also save UT 4,300,000 gallons per year in cooling tower makeup water simply by routing air handling unit condensate back to the campus recovered water system. Overall the building energy use is 34 percent better than ASHRAE 90.1 requirements and is targeting LEED-Gold certification.


Diane Hamlin, a senior associate with CO Architects in Los Angeles, has practiced architecture for 14 years and offers specialized experience in academic research facilities. She recently worked on all phases of the 260,000 sf William H. Foege Building (bioengineering and genome sciences) at the University of Washington, completed in 2006. Ms. Hamlin was part of the team providing programming, design, construction documents, and construction administration services. She is the project manager for the 330,000 sf Norman Hackerman Building at UT Austin, which completes construction in 2010. Diane also serves as the (BIM) coordinator for this project, which is being constructed as Construction Management/General Contractors (CM/GC). Her recent experience also includes the 125,000 sf Medical Education Building at Texas Tech University HSC—El Paso School of Medicine, and the 278,000 sf Kendall Square Building B Research Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She also served on project teams for two large healthcare projects: 500,000 sf of new and renovated facilities for University of California, Santa Monica, Los Angles Medical Center, and a 400,000 sf replacement hospital for Kaiser Permanente Panorama City Medical Center.

Ms. Hamlin received her Bachelor of Architecture from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and is a LEED Accredited Professional.

Brian Moore, since he began his engineering career in 1971 at Lockwood Andrews & Newnam in Houston, Texas, has been involved in a wide range of projects. During the course of his 38-year career, he has designed and/or led the design of mechanical and hydronic systems for over 40 million square feet of space. Mr. Moore's diverse experience includes such projects as office buildings; schools; hotels; airports; manufacturing facilities for the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries; laboratories; animal facilities; clean rooms; and aerospace manufacturing and research facilities. Between 1983 and 1988 he was in charge of all building mechanical systems design for Sverdrup Corporation's St. Louis, Missouri, office. For eight years prior to joining HMG & Associates, Inc., Mr. Moore was a principal and director of engineering for CUH2A, Inc., in Princeton, New Jersey. For nine years, Mr. Moore lectured in seminars in the United States and Europe on the design of pharmaceutical and biotechnology facilities. Mr. Moore is also a contributing author for the book Sterile Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Applications for the 1990s, published by Interpharm Press. Mr. Moore received his Bachelor of Science in architectural engineering from UT Austin in 1971 and is a registered engineer in 10 states.