Fifty-plus years ago, the interdisciplinary research pioneered at Ray W. Herrick Laboratories was ahead of its time. Now, Phase I of the labs’ new multi-phase facility expansion is ahead of schedule and heralding a new era for its industryrelevant research at Purdue.

Patricia Davies

"Our work with industry puts our research to work to PRODUCE BETTER PRODUCTS and improved environments."


When the new building is turned over to the University and the School of Mechanical Engineering in the late spring, it will double Herrick labs’ usable space for faculty and graduate students who conduct interdisciplinary research on thermal systems and air quality, noise and vibration control, electromechanical systems and modeling of human response for machine and system optimization.

The thermal systems, engines, controls, vibrations and buildings researchers now occupy the 1950s’ wings in front of the iconic brick former horse barn that was built a century ago. The barn itself houses the technical support team and acoustics research. New space for those activities will happen in the next phase of the project when fundraising is completed.

“Fond as we are of the old building, our space is very cramped,” says Patricia Davies, director of the Herrick Laboratories and professor of mechanical engineering. “The lack of space has inhibited our ability to take full advantage of new research opportunities.”

Conceived more than a decade ago, Phase I had its groundbreaking last July. The expansive new south-facing building on Russell Drive between State and Harrison streets will offer dynamic, flexible space for advanced labs dedicated to research ranging from advanced automotive technologies to “smart” buildings. There is also new space for faculty and administrative offices, collaborative group work, sponsor meetings and workshops. The new facility is the second mechanical engineering building designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification standards. The Mechanical Engineering Building’s Gatewood Wing was the first building on campus to meet the LEED Gold certification standard.

Herrick Labs have a long-established reputation for combining research, education and industry priorities. Davies says the expansion will only enhance the synergy: “Our work with industry puts our research to work to produce better products and improved environments.”

The new Herrick building features a Center for High Performance Buildings aimed at improving the energy efficiency, safety, indoor air quality and other conditions in existing and new buildings.

The Gerald D. Hines Sus tainable Buildings Technology Laboratory will focus on new building technologies and their impact on human behavior and productivity.

“This is a unique building with many special features,” Davies says. “There are other somewhat similar facilities in higher education but no place has all features we’ve incorporated here.”

Davies’ own work is part of a multidisciplinary research group that will use a Perception Based Engineering Living Laboratory to examine how people respond to environmental variables like noise, vibration, temperature, humidity, lighting and use that information to develop models that can be used to predict how people will respond in particular environments. “These models will help designers optimize human comfort and productivity,” Davies says.

The building’s “living laboratory” will be a working office complex designed with the ability to change the building exterior doors and windows, reconfigure air distribution and lighting systems, modify building set points and controls, and do side-by-side comparisons of different approaches to improving energy efficiency and/or comfort for occupants. As such, it will enable researchers to monitor systems and their impact on occupants in a realistic office environment.

Phase I, a $30.7 million project, received no state funding. Just over one-third, or $11.75 million, of the project’s cost is funded by the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, Davies says. An additional $10-$15 million will be required for subsequent phases.

Private donors — notably $3.5 million from Roger B. Gatewood (BSME ’68, OM E ’06) and $2 million from Gerald D. Hines (BSME ’48, HDR ’83) — are also funding the project.

The Ford Fund donated $3.5 million toward the Perception Based Engineering Lab. Cummins Inc. gave $1 million toward the advanced engines research area in the building.

The Herrick Foundation also provided $1 million for the building project, and Carrier, the heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration company, gave $1 million of in-kind gifts providing the many air handling systems required for this complex research building.

“This building is a dream coming true,” Davies says. “It is a testament to our great mechanical engineering alumni, donors, friends and corporate funding partners, and the importance and relevance of the research of the Ray W. Herrick Labs’ past and present students and faculty.”