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Higher Education Case Study: The Tip Of The Iceberg

Written by Heidi Schwartz. Posted in Case Study, Construction & Renovation, In-Depth Articles, Interiors, Magazine, Technology, Topics

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Published on October 15, 2002 with No Comments

San Diego State University's new Chemical Sciences Laboratory building contains labs and offices for the undergraduate and research programs of the chemistry and geology departments. Located on a steep hillside at the main entrance to the campus, it features two separate structures connected by open air links and a two level bridge to the adjacent Chemistry/Geology building.

San Diego State University’s new Chemical Sciences Laboratory building contains labs and offices for the undergraduate and research programs of the chemistry and geology departments. Located on a steep hillside at the main entrance to the campus, it features two separate structures connected by open air links and a two level bridge to the adjacent Chemistry/Geology building.

By Jill Aronson-Korot
From the October 2002 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Begun in January of 1998 and completed in April of 2001, the five story, 106,000 square foot Chemical Sciences Laboratory of San Diego State University (SDSU) was a $29.5 million project. The new facility houses 57 labs for upper and lower division chemistry and geology teaching and research, 17 research faculty offices, offices for the department of environmental health and safety (EHS), and a campus information kiosk.

Architecture And Design

Located at the intersection of College Avenue and Canyon Crest Drive, this building is a node at the entrance of the SDSU campus. The design of the building relies on the use of connecting bridges. These bridges link together the new laboratory building and campus to faculty office and classroom space, which will be housed in the renovated old building, currently under construction.

The new building is subdivided into two wings served by an exterior atrium at each level. All lower division chemistry laboratories are located on the topmost entry floor, followed by upper division labs on the fourth floor, research labs on the second and third levels, and the offices of EHS and the information kiosk at ground level. Passenger and freight elevators serve each of these levels from the street entry point to the main campus core.

According to Anthony Fulton, AIA and director of facilities design and management at SDSU, “The Chemical Sciences Laboratory facility was the result of analyzing the condition of the existing Chemistry/Geology Laboratory building, constructed in 1962, and realizing that renovation of that building to meet modern scientific needs was impossible.”

Some of the new code requirements that exist for buildings of this type were not easily achieved within the existing laboratory’s architecture. “Floor to floor height was insufficient to accommodate the necessary ductwork and mechanical systems to support research and fume hoods. The building code requirements for high technology facilities were such that renovation was impossible. The building did not meet modern laboratory standards, and it lacked ADA compliant cabinetry,” explains Fulton.

Additionally, Fulton says there was a pressing need to modernize the laboratory facilities for undergraduate chemistry and geology classes, but it was also crucial to provide the necessary support space for research, which is critical to the teaching methodologies of both disciplines. “A decision was made to focus the program of the building on the replacement of laboratory and research space,” he adds.

According to Gregory J. Mellberg, AIA and senior vice president of HDR, Inc., “We designed SDSU’s new chemistry lab with the unifying theme of the campus in mind. It was a goal of the university to return to its design roots. The building’s tile roofs, archways, warm colors, and heavy stucco reflect the Spanish heritage of the region and continue the signature design style of the campus.”

“Conceptually, the building was designed to reflect the mission style of the campus and to be a prominent cornerstone at the entrance to campus off the I-8 Freeway,” adds Fulton. “Architecturally, it has brought a sense of place to the campus and has become an important part of campus development and of the master plan.”

Mechanical Engineering

The modular laboratory space design contains over 200 fume hoods, water, air, vacuum, and other specialty gas systems. Campus steam and chilled water is supplied to a variable air volume (VAV) mechanical system to heat and cool the building.

According to Project Manager Joe Ross, of San Diego, CA-based TKG Consulting Engineers, Inc., the fume hoods are connected via Phoenix Control VAVs. The fume hood exhaust system consists of Twin City fans and fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) dedicated exhaust ducts. The reason for the incorporation of FRP was to minimize the corrosion that would normally occur in a laboratory where corrosive chemicals are used. The TKG mechanical engineering design also includes dedicated carcinogenic exhaust systems with dedicated exhaust fans and filters and perchloric vapor exhaust systems with dedicated stainless steel exhaust fans and scrubbers at the roof level.

Old And New Buildings Work Together

Spaces vacated in the old building are being refurbished and converted for classroom and faculty office space as a follow-up project. This will minimize the disruption of courses and research while accomplishing the much needed upgrade of laboratory infrastructure, work space, and equipment.

When asked to explain the need for both the construction of the new building and the renovation of the old building, Fulton explains, “With the exception of a few faculty offices adjacent to the research labs, the entire building is laboratory space. Chemical storage for the building was located external to the building because of the code mandates and required chemical zoning.

“The existing building, currently under renovation, was left free to house faculty offices, support storage space, and other necessary soft space that did not need fume hood support. Renovation of that building was accommodated more cheaply than integrating laboratory and office space together. That project is now being completed at a cost of $12.4 million for 120,000 gross square feet-almost one third of the laboratory space cost.”

As construction projects continue across campus, the SDSU facilities design and management staff has its hands full. From the underground trolley station currently under construction, to the recently completed Cox arena and Love Library addition, the SDSU campus is making headway and headlines.

For more information about the projects underway at the university, visit the Web at For more information about the architects, visit the Web at

About Heidi Schwartz

Heidi Schwartz

Schwartz joined Group C Media in April 1989 as managing editor of Today's Facility Manager (TFM) magazine (formerly Business Interiors) where she was subsequently promoted to editor/co-publisher of the monthly trade magazine for facility management professionals. In September 2012, she took over the newly created position of internet director for TFM's parent company, Group C Media, where she is charged with developing content and creating online strategies for TFM and its sister publication, Business Facilities. Schwartz can be reached at

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