USA: Air conditioning manufacturer Carrier has contributed over $1m in support of Purdue University’s renowned and newly expanded hvacr research facilities. The new 68,000ft2 Ray W Herrick Laboratories, located east of the existing Herrick building on Russell Drive West Lafayette, was officially opened on Friday. Construction began in October 2011.

The new Herrick building roughly doubles the size of the labs, which are administered by the University’s  School of Mechanical Engineering.

About one-third of the project’s cost was funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which provided $11.75m. The remainder came largely from private donors, including $3.5m from alumnus Roger Gatewood, a $2m contribution from alumnus Gerald D Hines, $3.5m from the Ford Fund and a more than $1m of in-kind donation from Carrier. The company’s founder Willis Carrier is honoured with a laboratory named after him.

Carrier’s contribution includes the provision of a custom air handling system and five years of engineering expertise to support the university’s research. This will  include the work that conducted in Herrick’s new Willis Carrier Laboratory, which will be used to advance the energy efficiency of hvac and refrigeration equipment. Carrier’s contribution of 15 feature-rich custom air handling units rounds out an existing lineup of high-quality Carrier units already in operation at Purdue. The units add to the university’s overall system, which includes cooling from Carrier chillers in the university’s central plant.

Carrier’s relationship with Purdue extends to also include recent research collaborations. Under a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, researchers at Herrick Laboratories joined with engineers at Carrier in Indianapolis to develop technologies designed to improve heat pump efficiency in cold climates. United Technologies’ corporate research centre is also collaborating with Herrick researchers on the development and evaluation of advanced building controls and diagnostics solutions under the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficient Buildings HUB.

The new 68,000ft2 Ray W Herrick Laboratories

The new 68,000ft2 Ray W Herrick Laboratories

Energy efficient building research

“The Herrick Labs have provided an important bridge between university research and industry, giving our best students opportunities based on real-world applications while helping corporations improve products and productivity,” said Purdue president Mitch Daniels.

The new building houses the Center for High Performance Buildings, where research is focused on equipment and operational technologies to make possible future buildings that are safer, more environmentally and user friendly, energy efficient, productive and comfortable.

Buildings are said to be responsible for roughly 40% of America’s energy use, 71% of electricity consumption and 38% of carbon dioxide emissions. It is also estimated that 20-30% of Americans have health problems related to indoor environments, with Americans typically spending more than 90% of their time indoors.

“Our aim is to create buildings that are better for the environment, more comfortable and healthier for people,” said Leah Jamieson, Purdue’s John A Edwardson dean of engineering. “These improvements will lead to buildings that positively impact the health and productivity of occupants.”

Economic impact

The economic impact related to health and lost productivity caused by poor indoor environments is estimated to be about $200bn per year in the USA, according to a project report prepared by Purdue and NIST. Poor indoor environments can cause respiratory illness, allergies and asthma, sick building syndrome, and musculoskeletal disorders. Buildings located near busy roads, trains and airports are susceptible to air quality issues, noise and vibration, which potentially lead to effects such as sleep disturbance, hypertension and heart disease.

A special feature will be a “living laboratory,” a working office wing designed with replaceable modular elements including windows; a reconfigurable air distribution and lighting system; and instrumentation to monitor and assess the environment within the offices and its impact on occupants.

“The living laboratory will allow researchers to test and validate new systems and concepts within a real-world setting to evaluate energy performance and occupant response,” said James Braun, director of the new Center for High Performance Buildings.

“An example of a use of this laboratory is to simulate aspects of building environments and determine how noise, temperature, humidity and lighting affect comfort.” said Patricia Davies, director of the Herrick Laboratories and professor of mechanical engineering. “Such models can be used to guide decisions on environmental controls and building designs to improve occupant comfort.”

The Herrick Labs were established in the 1950s with a grant from Ray W Herrick, then ceo of compressor manufacturer Tecumseh Products Co.

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