Wayne State University, A. Paul Schapp Chemistry Building

Addition to existing building: Wayne State University, A. Paul Schapp Chemistry Building; Harley Ellis Devereaux


Project name: Wayne State University, A. Paul Schapp Chemistry Building

Location: Detroit, Mich.

Firm name: Harley Ellis Devereaux

Project type, building type: Addition to existing building; research/lab/high-tech

Project duration: 2.5 years

Project completion date: Sept. 16, 2011

Project budget for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection engineering only: $22 million

Engineering challenges

The desire to sustainably adapt and expand the existing 40-year-old traditional teaching laboratory building into a state-of-the art interdisciplinary collaborative research, academic, and campus icon presented the design team with many challenges. The space functionality was to embrace a more social and interactive work environment to attract the best and brightest faculty and students while respecting existing site limitations, restrictive building areas, and floor-to-floor heights; increasing occupant population; increasing building and MEP systems’ efficiencies; achieving U.S. Green Building Council LEED Silver certification; and maintaining construction cost within a fixed budget. In addition, the construction phasing would need to be planned and executed in a manner that would allow the chemistry program to continue the research/teaching program throughout the construction process.


This project represents a strong example of sensitive land use in that it is an infill development on a dense, urban campus. The building footprint was carefully reduced to the smallest size possible while maintaining its functionality. Patterns of site circulation that have been in place for decades were preserved and reinforced. Renovation was divided into two phases. During renovations, researchers were Fume hoods with split sash design improve safety and reduce energy consumption. Courtesy: Harley Ellis Devereaux (Click to enlarge)relocated to other areas or moved to other buildings. Scientific equipment including nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers, mass spectrometers, and a transmission electron microscope were kept operational 80% of the time of construction. Phase one renovations included demolition and reconstruction of all laboratory spaces and office space improvements throughout the building’s four-story northern half. Small private laboratories were replaced with larger, open-plan research environments. A redesign of the lab flow coupled with distinct student work areas adjacent to the labs created an efficient and flexible overall plan. Through smart and efficient planning and reconfiguration of the main supply air shaft, the new design recaptures 6,400 sq ft of existing utility shaft and corridor space and transforms it into modern laboratory support space. 

Phase two continued the laboratory renovations as well as adding the iconic atrium, chemistry laboratories, faculty offices, interaction spaces, and a 150-seat, very high-end lecture hall for special events. The chemistry building renovation achieves performance objectives in both safety and environmental sustainability. This is notable considering that chemistry buildings are inherently huge consumers of energy due to code-mandated fresh air requirements When the original building A mix of fixed and movable bench space adds flexibility. Courtesy: Harley Ellis Devereaux (Click to enlarge)was built in 1968, lab exhaust design criteria for chemistry fume hoods recommended a face velocity of 100 fpm within a constant air volume system. Wayne State recognized the huge amount of energy that was needlessly spent operating under these old assumptions and sought to establish new standards while maintaining a high level of safety.

The new renovation now uses variable air volume (VAV) supply and exhaust HVAC systems. And after extensive on-site testing using the ASHRAE 110 test that evaluates cross drafts and turbulence, Wayne State decided to lower the maximum fume hood face velocity to 80 fpm. This resulted in a reduction in fume hood exhaust of 54,400 cfm in phase one alone. To conserve space, and minimize noise and turbulence at fume hood faces, supply air is introduced into the labs through a raised ceiling that effectively makes the entire ceiling the supply diffuser. Much of the new project’s design in terms of the atrium, open labs, and interaction spaces encourages interactions between faculty and students who otherwise would tend to be confined within their lab environments. It is believed this will foster a new positive energy within the department that will elevate chemical research and education programs at Wayne State University to even greater heights. The project has not only provided sorely needed programmatic space that continues core research and academic functions, it has also generated a new and positive social dynamic.

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