The University of Kansas Dyche Hall

System overhaul; The University of Kansas Dyche Hall; Professional Engineering Consultants, P.A.


Outside view of Dyche Hall. Courtesy: Professional Engineering ConsultantsEngineering firm: Professional Engineering Consultants, P.A.
2013 MEP Giants rank:
The University of Kansas Dyche Hall
Lawrence, Kan., United States
Building type:
School (college, university)
Project type:
System overhaul (e.g., mechanical system upgrade, fire protection system overhaul, etc.)
Engineering services:
Electrical/Power, HVAC, Lighting
Project timeline:
December 2009 to December 2012
Engineering services budget:
MEP budget:


Dyche Hall is home to the University of Kansas's Natural History Museum and the Biodiversity Institute. The seven-story, 107,000-sq-ft building had not had extensive renovation for 50 years. This threatened the continued success of the institute's mission: education, research, and documentation on the diversity of the earth's species. To say that the antiquated facility was a hindrance to the institute's work is an understatement. Recalls Lori Schlenker, collections and facilities coordinator, "We had computers daisy-chained together on old rickety tables. Specimens were stored in chest freezers, and vulnerable to power outages or system failures." Heat needed for laboratory processing was supplied with desk lamps, and cooling down vital computer servers was accomplished by placing ice trays in front of fans. Old buildings are not designed for modern equipment.

PEC Project Manager Jarrod Mann recalls the challenges involved in renovating a nearly 100-year-old infrastructure. "In addition to working around priceless and very old artifacts, we had to find ways to put modern equipment into a building that was not designed to hold it." A "penthouse" had to be constructed on the rooftop to hold HVAC equipment, because the roof slab was not able to support the 4-ton weight. To distribute the weight load through the building's structural columns, the equipment was hung from the penthouse rafters. Mann explains, "It couldn't be just any rooftop structure. It had to look like it could be original, since the building is on the National Historic Register."


Updating Dyche Hall came in two parts. The first was a $1.7 million mechanical and electrical equipment replacement, which included the removal of some steam radiators, new digital zone controls for HVAC, and electrical circuits that could meet modern technical demands. This project included mechanical and electrical engineering design for the replacement of obsolete HVAC and electrical distribution equipment located in Dyche Hall on the Main Campus of the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Mechanical engineering work included the replacement of obsolete central station air handling units servicing portions of the 1961 addition and the original building. The mechanical design incorporated energy efficient features including economizer capability, demand-based ventilation, and variable air volume strategies. A new mechanical penthouse was added to the 1961 addition to improve access to equipment for maintenance and accommodate energy recovery equipment.

Electrical engineering work included replacement of the electrical distribution panels, branch circuit panel boards, and feeders throughout the 1961 addition to the building, as well as supporting the HVAC equipment replacements. It also included replacement of outdated branch circuit wiring in portions of the building, some of which dates to the 1930s. Structural engineering work included evaluation of existing supports and the design of the new penthouse roof. The penthouse structure also supports the new equipment above the original roof system, which did not have sufficient capacity.

The second phase of renovation came as a result of a $3.5 million National Science Foundation grant, and consisted of gutting the entire fifth floor of the 1960s addition, extensively remodeling seven laboratory areas, adding new collections storage, and creating a new server room with dedicated HVAC and five times more space. Museum display cases were updates with LED lighting, which will save the Historical Museum energy equal to powering two average American homes for a year.

Renovation has enhanced the Institute's mission in other ways. Previously, researchers weren't allowed to work with specimens that could potentially be carrying pathogens, because bird and mammal preparation areas didn't meet OSHA standards. This limited the study of isolating how diseases spread in bird populations. The laboratory is now a biosafety level two facility, which opens up new research capabilities. The project involved careful planning of the schedule and sequencing of the construction work to assure that critical archives and specimens were preserved and the ongoing research and experiments were not adversely affected.

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