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UNR Center for Molecular Medicine

July 20, 2012
Center for Molecular Medicine

Center for Molecular Medicine

Definitely one of the larger and more complex jobs that our office has been a part of, the LEED Silver equivalent 140,000 square foot University of Nevada Reno-School of Medicine’s Center for Molecular Medicine was completed in early 2011.  Ainsworth Associates Mechanical Engineers was responsible for the mechanical, plumbing, and fire protection design of the facility which included both a medical office building and a research laboratory building.  The medical office building houses different university departments and tenant spaces occupied by various organizations including the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease.  The laboratory building houses various research labs including physiology, microbiology/immunology, and pharmacology labs, as well as multiple BSL III labs.

HVAC and plumbing systems for the MOB side consisted of VAV Air Handlers with air side economizers, some minor medical gas for some of the tenants, and a grease waste system.  The lab side….that’s a different story.  Due to the highly sensitive nature of the research that occurs in this part of the facility, the HVAC and plumbing design is complex.  Stringent pressurization requirements resulted in over 101,000 cfm of air being controlled thru Phoenix air control valves.  These highly accurate air valves are connected to the supply air, the hoods, and the general exhaust to maintain space pressurization requirements while providing energy efficiency.  All this lab exhaust is exhausted thru tall stacks which can be seen from North McCarran Blvd.  There were also special filtration requirements with the provision of biological safety cabinets and radio-isotope hoods.  Due to security clearance reasons, all equipment serving the vivarium portion of the facility is accessed and maintained via catwalk.  During construction, the catwalk provided a great view of construction activities and really allowed a feel of the large scope of the project.

The facility systems are served by traditional cooling towers, standard screw chillers, small cooling towers for process cooling, hot water boilers, and steam boilers.  Energy recovery throughout the facility is accomplished thru air-to-air heat exchangers and run-around coils.

Plumbing systems for the lab building were also complex.  Present are standard plumbing systems as well as RODI water, lab vacuum and air, processed cooling water (HVAC), acid waste/vent, industrial cold and hot water, and tepid water supply/return runs for safety equipment.  The accurate design and drafting of these systems was tedious at times and the drafters lovingly referred to the project as “the Mole.”

View of the Vivarium Catwalk

View of the Vivarium Catwalk

We asked our project manager John S. Harding from the Reno Office if he had any particular interesting memories of the design process and he recalled the request of him to design a rodent bedding exhaust system.  A bit of an unusual request to say the least.  He also mentioned fond memories of walking the vivarium during construction with its then massive open interior spaces surrounded by heavy-duty thick CMU walls with the not yet concealed catwalk level above.  Particular challenges were summarized by a discussion of how the highly technical systems required great trade coordination as there were numerous space concerns.Ainsworth Associates Mechanical Engineers was proud to be part of the design team led by Dekker/Perich/Sabatini Architects out of Albuquerque and Las Vegas.  The design team consisted of D/P/S Architects, AAME, PK Electrical, Odyssey Engineering Civil Engineers, Forbes Dunnigan Structural Engineers, RFD Lab Consultants, the Weidt Group LEED consultants, and Ambient Air Technologies who performed wind tunnel analysis.  The construction team was led by general contractor Clark & Sullivan.


Project Size:  140,891 total square feet, including a 53,890 square foot medical office building, a 85,126 square foot laboratory building, and a 1,875 square foot bridge connecting the Center of Molecular Medicine to the Howard Building.

Total Project Budget:  $56M.

Total Mechanical Budget: $14.5M.

Check out this time-lapse contruction video or some more pics.

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