New Construction Bronze: Bioengineering for the future


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It's no easy task to plan a medical research campus that responds to today's needs while preparing for the unforeseen tasks of the future. That's exactly what University of Colorado Denver wanted for its Anschutz Medical Campus Research 2 building.

Located in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo., the campus was part of a $3 billion master plan that would create a series of research, clinical, educational, and hospital centers on the decommissioned Fitzsimons Army Post (the same place where President Eisenhower spent seven weeks in the hospital recovering from a heart attack in 1955).

The action plan

Raleigh, N.C.-based KlingStubbins was brought into the project, along with Fentress Architects, ME Engineers, and a series of additional consultants for the first two research laboratory buildings. With the first Research Building (RC-1) completed in June 2004, the team was “re-selected” to provide design on the $206 million, 11-story, 506,000-sq-ft second Research Building (RC-2). The building is home to School of Medicine research sciences including: cardiology, toxicology, gastroenterology, geriatrics, neurology, pediatrics, and infectious diseases.

Inside is a 46,000-sq-ft vivarium space for research lab animals and a biosafety level three environment. (Think potentially lethal diseases like anthrax, West Nile virus, and SARS.) Due to the sensitive nature of the research, the system designs focused on reliable, redundant systems and sources that serve to protect the research, the research animals, the researchers, and the external environment.

“Biomedical research isn't often done at such capacity,” said KlingStubbins engineering design principal Jeff Heiken. “Usually it is 40,000 sq ft dedicated to a specific science in a single building, not a high-rise of this size.”

Power for the entire campus operates on a 15 kV redundant loop, with RC-2 electrical service switch gears on two medium-voltage 15 kV circuit breakers that automatically switch over to emergency generators if necessary while UPS systems cover the emergency lighting needs throughout the lab.

“That way, if a researcher is in the middle of something and all the power goes out, they don't get stuck in the dark until the generator kicks in,” Heiken said.

The school wanted architectural flexibility, so a room could be customized according to a researcher's needs. The designs incorporated modular, flexible, and redundant lab designs with varying options for procedural spaces.

With this in mind, the design plan focused on a set density of chemical fume hoods that could easily expand or contract without significant infrastructural alterations as research needs or techniques evolve. High density of data and power access was added throughout all research areas, with more than 10,000 power receptacles throughout the building.

“With these designs, if a new researcher joins the university and wants to do something different, you don't have to rip out the system and go through various ductwork changes to reconfigure the room,” Heiken said. “It's already built into the system.”

High-tech ventilation

Eight custom variable volume air handlers at 80,000 cfm provide conditioning and ventilation for the laboratory, support, and office spaces. Because of Denver's arid climate, all air handlers were fitted with evaporative cooling sections, which function to reduce the overall mechanical refrigeration needs. The primary cooling for the building is a centralized campus loop, which features high-efficiency chiller units capable of diversifying the loading profiles on a campus-wide level. A glycol pump-around heat recovery system has coils in the main exhaust air stream on the roof, which captures thermal energy for preheating or precooling at associated coils in the main air handlers to reduce primary cooling and heating peak loads.

Within the building, three very large vertical shafts are sized for air distribution. The exhaust is routed to the seven roof-mounted utility set fans that are connected to a series of high-velocity, high-dispersion stacks. The conditioned supply air from the second level has louvered intakes strategically positioned to prevent re-entrainment of exhausted contaminants. The supply ducting connects horizontally on the mechanical room level prior to rising vertically to the research levels with more than 1,500 laboratory supply and exhaust air control devices.

Lighting control elements were added with energy-saving occupancy sensors, and photocell-controlled exterior security and safety lighting. Preset dimming stations in the lecture theater and gathering spaces, and perimeter offices equipped with automatic dual level switching with dual ballasts controlled via photosensors also conserve energy.

“It's a state-of-the-art building that can adapt to just about anything researchers might need in the future,” said Heiken.

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