Century Bond Funding Brings Renovations to Chem ‘73

Chem '73 AHUs
December 2, 2014

Chem ‘73, the 1973 Wing of the Chemistry Laboratories in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences, is the first building in which a comprehensive mechanical and lighting systems renovation under Penn’s Century Bond program has been completed.  This 150,000 square foot building is home to lab, lecture, and offices spaces, an auditorium and a library — all functioning with what, in many cases, were the original internal systems for cooling, heating and lighting. Chem ‘73 had been on a list of research buildings targeted for renovation based on its advanced age and the deteriorated condition of its Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC). When the Century Bond funding became available in spring 2012, several buildings on this list were studied to determine their feasibility for renovation, examining cost, condition, and payback based on utilities savings, among other factors. Ultimately, eight Penn buildings were identified for Century Bond funding, and Chem ‘73 was selected as the first project.

Conducting extensive HVAC system work in an occupied building increased the visibility and complexity of the project, according to Michael Dausch, Executive Director of Design & Construction in Penn’s Facilities & Real Estate Services. A temporary air handling unit (AHU) on the roof served each floor during the demo work. This set-up, combined with the fact that the building’s ductwork did not need replacing, enabled the building to remain occupied during the HVAC system renovation.

The Chem ‘73 HVAC renovations converted the ventilation controls from a constant to a variable air volume system, automatically adjusting the amount of fresh air brought in to the building according to the level of occupancy.  New, more efficient air handler units were installed, as were automated Phoenix supply and exhaust valves throughout building and at fume hoods to deliver the precise amount of air flow necessary for occupancy comfort and research needs. New rooftop Strobic exhaust fans were installed with redundant capacity and variable frequency drives, which are tuned to the rest of the building airflow controls.

Inefficient T12 fluorescent lighting fixtures were replaced with new T8 fixtures, which reduced the number of lamps by 70% and reduced the wattage of the lamps from 40 watts to 28 watts.  Additional electrical savings have been realized by incorporating occupancy and vacancy sensors throughout the building.

The project wrapped up on time and on budget in early September 2014. Ken Ogawa, Executive Director of Operations & Maintenance in Penn’s Facilities & Real Estate Services, reports that energy use is running at about 67% below the pre-renovation levels after two months of building operation.

To maximize the benefits of this new building, the Penn Sustainability Office is planning a series of sessions to educate occupants on the operation of their “new” building. Senior Project Manager Margo Pietras-Barnes presented the Chem ‘73 project as a case study in energy saving building renovations to students in the School of Design Masters of Environmental Building Design program.