Purdue breaking ground on Herrick Labs expansion

March 29, 2011

This artist's interpretation depicts Purdue University's addition to the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories. The existing Herrick labs (top and middle of the picture) are housed in an expanded brick horse barn originally built a century ago near State Street and Russell Drive. The new building will contain several advanced labs, include specialized facilities aimed at developing future buildings designed to be safer and more environmentally and user friendly, energy efficient and comfortable than today's buildings. (AEI /Flad Architects)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University will break ground Friday (April 1) on a project to expand the university's Ray W. Herrick Laboratories, a hub of industry-oriented research in areas ranging from advanced automotive technologies to "smart" buildings.

The groundbreaking ceremony, at 3 p.m. in front of Herrick, near State Street and Martin Jischke Drive, represents the start of a multi-phase, 68,000-square-foot rebuilding project.

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

Half of the project's cost is funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is providing $11.75 million, and the other half is coming largely from private donors, including $3.5 million from alumnus Roger Gatewood and a $2 million contribution from mechanical engineering alumnus Gerald D. Hines.

The new Herrick building will roughly double the size of the labs, which are administered by the School of Mechanical Engineering.

"Herrick's expanded capabilities will enhance Purdue's ability to attack the challenges surrounding major issues, including energy conservation and indoor-environmental health," said Purdue President France A. Córdova.

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.

"Research in the Herrick facilities will help 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 and Ransburg Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "Future building designs will lead to dramatic improvements in health and productivity."

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.

Construction on the project's first phase is expected to begin in July and be completed early in 2013. The addition will be located east of the existing Herrick building on Russell Drive.

A special feature will be a "living laboratory," a working office wing designed with replaceable modular elements, moveable walls, doors and windows; a reconfigurable air distribution and lighting system; and instrumentation to monitor systems and occupants.

Researchers will be able to use the living laboratory to test and validate new building systems and concepts. 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 $3.5 million toward this laboratory and associated research. Work in the Perception Based Engineering Lab is focused on understanding factors contributing to occupant comfort and performance.

"In this laboratory it will be possible to simulate a wide span of building environments," Davies said.

Lighting, the acoustic environment, air quality, temperature, humidity, airflow and vibration will be controlled independently and precisely.

"The research will lead to the development of models of human impact that could be used in the development of advanced building control strategies tested in the living laboratory," she said. 

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 a Federal Aviation Administration multi-university center specializing on an airliner cabin's environment.

The Herrick Labs, which held a 50th anniversary celebration in 2008, are housed in an expanded brick horse barn originally built a century ago near State Street and Russell Drive. The laboratories 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, more than 800 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.

Writer:  Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, venere@purdue.edu

Sources:  France A. Córdova, 765- 494-9708

                  Patricia Davies, 765-494-9274, daviesp@purdue.edu

                  Leah H. Jamieson, 765-494-5346, lhj@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Video B-roll is available from the Purdue News Service by contacting Jim Schenke, Purdue News Service, at 765-494-6262, jschenke@purdue.edu 

Previous news releases:

Purdue creating center for high-performance buildings at Herrick Labs

Herrick Labs turning 50, eyes future expansion

Alumnus completes $11 million drive for Purdue industry-oriented laboratory

History and research at the Herrick Laboratories

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