Press Release: 07.31.2013

Improving Efficiencies

“Right-Sized” MAXLAB Packs a Punch

McCarthy’s fifth project for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will celebrate a grand opening this summer. The Department of Energy’s $14.3 million Maximum Energy Efficiency Research Laboratory (MAXLAB) is a new building that will provide a lasting impact to the design and construction industries. Certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council, MAXLAB represents a true collaboration among owner, designer, builder, researchers and industry.

Energy Efficiency Research
The 18,000-gross-square-foot (gsf) MAXLAB facility serves a unique mission: to research and develop energy-efficient building products, including HVAC systems, exterior building materials, components and systems.

“The purpose of this particular project certainly resonates with us as builders, as we are continually searching for ways to improve our processes and materials to produce better results for our clients,” said McCarthy Project Director Larry VanHouten. “The research conducted in this facility will lead to important innovations for our company and the entire building industry moving forward, and we are excited to be a part of it.”

The facility houses a high bay lab with an overhead crane for building envelope system research, a low bay lab for HVAC system research, a data center and offices. McCarthy also completed a separate utilities upgrade to provide mechanical and electrical services for the new lab and self-performed the concrete foundations and general works scope. 

Included with the construction of the facility were two light commercial building flexible research platforms. These platforms allow for a fairly simple means to change aspects of the test buildings to facilitate the study of building energy efficiency concepts.

The two-story research platform is a 4,050-gsf conventional steel frame with masonry envelope structure. The second research platform includes a one-story, 3,030-gsf, pre-engineered building with a sloped roof. The two research platforms sit on insulated concrete foundations with in-slab heating/cooling loops, enabling research equipment to control the temperature of the fluid circulating in the loops to eliminate heat transfer between the ground and test buildings during experiments.

Right Sizing the Project
For MAXLAB, the owner wanted to focus on the specialized technical aspects of the lab, sustainability and usability for researchers. The team addressed those concerns by selectively choosing tools and making decisions that maximized the budget and achieved the owner’s goals through the following approaches:

  • Scaled the use of virtual design and construction (VDC) by focusing on building information modeling (BIM) for equipment space planning and MEP coordination.
    Utilizing all of the tools in your VDC toolbox can potentially overwhelm a project. For MAXLAB, the team chose to use BIM selectively in the areas of owner engagement, site logistics and coordination of structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. The team improved construction performance by applying BIM to eliminate interface and clashes between building systems and components, and to verify that scientific research equipment would fit in the planned space with adequate operating clearance.
  • Leveraged the most beneficial sustainable components and scaled down innovative building systems to achieve LEED Gold for a smaller lab.
    MAXLAB received its LEED Gold certification based on a number of green construction and operation features the team chose to maximize facility energy efficiency. Sustainable features include a rainwater harvest tank, motion sensors, use of day-lighting in interior lab space, thermally improved “cool” roof, thermally improved precast sandwich panel building envelope, aluminum exterior sunshades, a Variable Refrigerant Flow System (VRF), and individual thermostat controls in each office.
  • Collaborated with industry users and tenants to enhance lab effectiveness and platform use.
    ORNL engaged a User Consortium to collaborate on the two MAXLAB Field Research Platform (FRP) facilities. The ultimate purpose of the FRPs is to allow industrial and university collaborations to more effectively leverage expertise and capabilities in the DOE’s National Laboratories, support the development of new technologies, and increase the likelihood that they will successfully enter the market. Manufacturer associations will be able to collaborate with researchers to improve products, product installation and energy efficiency. ORNL collaborated with industry leaders such as Trane, Ingersoll Rand, Metal Building Manufacturers Association, Single Ply Roofing Industry, SouthWest Gas, Nordyne, Autodesk, DesignBuilder, Bentley, DOE Energy Efficiency Building HUB and Samsung, so that the FRPS were designed for effective research.

With true collaboration and straightforward prioritization of needs and goals, the MAXLAB project packs a punch.

Concept design, design and construction documents and construction administration were provided by Cannon Design of St. Louis. Other contributors to the project design included civil engineer Fulghum MacIndoe & Associates Inc. and landscape architect Hedstrom Design, both of Knoxville, Tenn. The design for the enclosure of the two platforms was performed by UT Battelle who manages and operates Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

MAXLAB follows McCarthy’s construction of the multiple award-winning $73.5 million Chemical and Materials Sciences Building, a $7.4 million design-build parking structure, 2.4 kV Distribution Grid Improvement, and 3000 Area Utility Improvement project, all on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory campus. 

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