The construction of a new academic facility at Penn State University’s Berks Campus (PSU Berks) alleviated the tight scheduling demands of classroom space within their Luerssen Building (Luerssen). This allowed PSU Berks the opportunity to provide badly needed renovations to the science laboratory facilities and general academic classroom space within Luerssen, a building that had not seen a major renovation since its construction in 1971. We teamed with lead architect Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to provide evaluation and design of mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP), lighting, and energy efficiency upgrades to transform Luerssen into a highly functional multi-use laboratory and classroom building, utilizing a two-phased approach to keep 50% of Luerssen operational throughout construction.
All of Luerssen’s MEP systems required evaluation, and the University’s assumption prior to the project was that most of the aged systems would need a complete replacement, which proved to be correct. The existing exhaust systems were inadequate for current science classroom requirements, and the existing unit ventilators provided poor temperature and humidity control, while their location within the classroom space added noise distractions. A significant challenge for this project was PSU-Berks’ edict to not increase Luerssen’s already minimal mechanical space footprint, so as to not subtract from program space. Low floor to floor heights and the challenge of routing the science exhaust and make-up air ductwork systems provided limited HVAC system options.
Several HVAC systems were analyzed based on first costs, operating costs, and mechanical footprint. Ultimately, a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system with individual room controls was recommended to, and chosen by, the University. The VRF system is a multi-zone heat pump system enabling different spaces to be in heating or cooling modes. Dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS) were designed for exhaust and make-up air of non-corrosive laboratory fume hoods. The DOAS units have heat recovery wheels and fixed plate heat exchangers for laboratory spaces, packaged DX cooling, and gas heat to provide room neutral air to each space. Energy models indicated that for Luerssen’s anticipated use, the new system energy costs would rival that of a natural gas-fired alternative, with significantly lower first costs, while fitting within the existing mechanical footprint of Luerssen.
Luerssen’s lighting was designed for an upgrade of LED fixtures and controls to provide low energy, high performance lighting for the building, complete with occupancy sensors and lighting controls. The lighting controls allow University faculty to adjust the light levels in their learning spaces, as needed.
Utilizing Revit 3D design modeling software, we were able to show the University a two-phased construction approach that would allow for approximately 50% of Luerssen to remain functional and available to the faculty throughout construction.