Sustainability a Prime Initiative in IKM’s Design for Engineering & Science

Sustainability a Prime Initiative in IKM’s Design for Engineering & Science

The Engineering and Science (E&S) Building at the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown campus is getting a major renovation that is driven in large part by concern for sustainability.  The project, designed by IKM Incorporated, Pittsburgh architects, and currently under construction, is seeking LEED certification.

The envelope of the Engineering and Science Building will remain mostly intact with the addition of a new entrance element.

“It is an unusual opportunity on a LEED Registered project to retain so much of the existing building,” according to Melanie Como Harris, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, LEED Administrator for IKM for the project. “It’s not just the envelope, it also includes the building structure for a total of about 75% of the existing building being reused.”

“Our design seeks to transform the solid nature of the existing building to create layers of transparency and put on display two of the University’s most in-demand departments — Engineering and Chemistry,” said Jason Hindes, AIA, project architect and designer at IKM; the architects for the project.  “Distinct public zones are scattered throughout the building that begin to pull learning outside of the classroom walls and into public spaces.”

UPJ E&S Collage

“Inside and outside we looked for design opportunities to generate cross-disciplinary collaboration and to break down the perceived barriers between departments,” said Hindes.  “The new glass façade opens up onto the main quad of the campus, putting the innovation and creativity happening within on display and allowing the campus to finally see, celebrate and be part of the important work occurring inside.”


IKM-UPJ E&S Exterior crop

The existing building is approximately 60,000 SF with the focus of the renovation on new laboratories, classrooms and offices for the Schools of Engineering and Chemistry. Also included in the project is a connection to the adjacent Nursing Health Sciences Building at the ground level.

During the pre-design phase, the IKM team focused sustainable design strategies into three categories: site, building envelope / systems, and building interior.

Sustainability Initiatives – Site:

The project site includes the entrance walkway and the existing E&S building footprint. The sustainable design goal is to optimize the strategies in the limited area of the site being disturbed. Site strategies recommended by the design team include the use native plants in landscaping to eliminate the need for supplemental irrigation.

Additional site design credits were possible under current USGBC (US Green Building Council) guidelines due to the building’s central location on campus.  Student and faculty are able to take advantage of two alternative transportation options, the University Shuttle and the public bus lines that stop nearby.

Other site design strategies employed by the IKM design team involved the project reducing its heat island affect – by choosing a high albedo, or highly reflective, roof membrane.  Light pollution is reduced through the use of lighting controls that lower the amount of light emitted through the building envelope during the overnight hours, and by lighting design and fixture selection outside of the building that focus illumination within the boundary of the project site, minimizing sky glow.

Sustainability Initiatives – Building Envelope/Systems:

The renovation includes substantial replacement of all building mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection infrastructure and reroofing of the building. This created an interesting dynamic for sustainability strategies. Strategies that the IKM design team incorporated include systems design to reduce use by 12% per the ASHREA Standard 90.1. This will be done by energy recovery equipment for the new laboratory mechanical systems, variable frequency drives for pumps and fans, and building automation. Building systems will be commissioned to ensure optimum performance of the new systems.

Sustainability Initiatives – Interior:

The full renovation of the building interior allows the IKM design team to incorporate sustainable materials that emit low or no VOCs, and which contain no urea formaldehyde, like paints, carpet, resilient flooring, and casework and to create a healthy indoor environmental quality.

Retaining a major portion of the existing building envelope keeps those materials from ending up in a landfill.  The project will also be tracking construction waste, recycled and regional material content of construction materials, and VOC levels of construction materials.  Indoor air quality will be monitored during construction and the building will be flushed out prior to occupancy.


esconstruction from UPJ via email

Construction began in November of 2015.  The project team has submitted their Final Design Review to USGBC and is tracking and reviewing the construction materials.  The overall project is to conclude by the end of 2016.

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This piece was adapted by Patty Swisher and co-edited by Bob Bailey, AIA, CCS, CSI, LEED AP, from an entry in IKM’s quarterly Green Newsletter originally written by Melanie Como Harris, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, and Mindy Coblentz, AIA, LEED AP BD+C.

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