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Purdue University's New Herrick Labs Building Open for Business

On Nov. 8, Purdue University unveiled a new building and facilities for the expansion of the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories, a hub of industry-oriented research in areas ranging from advanced automotive technologies to "smart" buildings.

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On Nov. 8, Purdue University unveiled a new building and facilities for the expansion of the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories, a hub of industry-oriented research in areas ranging from advanced automotive technologies to "smart" buildings.

The dedication was at 3:30 p.m. in the new 68,000-square-foot building, located east of the existing Herrick building on Russell Drive. Construction began in October 2011. The new Herrick building roughly doubles the size of the labs, which are administered by the School of Mechanical Engineering.

"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.

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

Herrick's current facilities, such as an advanced engine test area, will be replaced and expanded. Support from Cummins Inc. for engine research at Herrick includes $1 million toward the building project. The new facility also will house components of Federal Aviation Administration multi-university centers specializing in studying the environment inside the cabin of a commercial airliner and the impact of aircraft noise.

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 responsible for roughly 40 percent of the nation's energy use, 71 percent of electricity consumption and 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Americans typically spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors, while 20 percent to 30 percent of occupants have health problems related to indoor environments, according to a project report prepared by Purdue and NIST, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Purdue University's new Ray W. Herrick Laboratories building opened this fall. The new facility roughly doubles the size of the labs, which are administered by the School of Mechanical Engineering.Photo credit: Mark Simons, Purdue University"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."

The economic impact related to health and lost productivity caused by poor indoor environments is estimated to be about $200 billion per year in the United States, according to the report. 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.

One of the major challenges will be to develop an understanding of the relationships between indoor environments and human health and productivity, leading to the design of better building systems, said Patricia Davies, director of the Herrick Laboratories and professor of mechanical engineering. Her work is part of a multidisciplinary research group that will use a Perception Based Engineering Laboratory in Herrick.

The Ford Fund donated the $3.5 million toward this laboratory and associated research. Work in the Perception Based Engineering Lab is focused on understanding factors that contribute to people's perception and responses to engineered systems and environments. In the context of high-performance buildings, that work is focused on examining the factors contributing to occupant comfort and performance.

"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. Such models can be used to guide decisions on environmental controls and building designs to improve occupant comfort," Davies said.

The Herrick Labs were established in the 1950s with a grant from Ray W. Herrick, then CEO of Tecumseh Products Co., in Tecumseh, Mich., after mechanical engineering professor Bill Fontaine had spent a summer working at the company. Fontaine became the first director of the laboratories.

Since then, about 900 Purdue students have completed graduate and doctoral degrees in work based at Herrick. More than 50 years after its start, Ray Herrick's great grandson, Kent Herrick, is working with the Herrick faculty on thermal systems research. The Herrick Foundation also provided one of the earliest gifts, a $1 million contribution, to this building project.

"The new laboratories contain a truly unique set of facilities for considering the entire spectrum of building activities and technologies in isolation under controlled conditions or integrated in systems under real-world conditions," Braun said "No other university has facilities and expertise that cover the scale of activities from individual device to subsystem to whole building and occupant performance."

From grant preparation to successful project completion, Purdue Physical Facilities coordinated the design and construction of the new Herrick facility with a variety of consultants, contractors, stakeholders and customers.