The Clean Solution
DPR meets the complex needs of a Caltech cleanroom with MEP design/assist input
Know what a buckminsterfullerene C60 is? In the field of nanotechnology, it’s the scientific name for a “buckyball,” one of the simplest of the carbon structures. And while these structures are known for their simplicity, the physical facilities in which they are researched are anything but simple.
Project: Kavli Research Institute Cleanroom
Client: California Institute of Technology
In March of this year, DPR completed a 10,000-sq.-ft. buildout of a research laboratory for emerging nanoscience technologies for the California Institute of Technology Kavli Research Institute in Pasadena, CA. The 8-month project, which took place in a fully occupied, functioning facility, features three classes of cleanrooms: Class 100, Class 1,000 and Class 10,000—similar to highly technical microelectronic manufacturing facilities. To offer some perspective, according to Wikipedia, the ambient air outside in a typical urban environment might contain as many as 35,000,000 particles per cubic meter. Cleanrooms, which DPR has constructed more than $3 billion worth over the last 18 years, are classified according to the number and size of particles permitted per volume of air (i.e., Class 100 means 100 is the maximum permitted number of particles per cubic foot).
Although well-experienced in cleanroom construction, with its extensive ductwork and stringent clean-construction protocols, DPR still had to overcome several challenges in the building of the Caltech Kavli research laboratory. The Kavli lab is located in the subbasement of a five-story building, two levels below grade, which means the space in which to locate the mechanical systems that support the laboratory’s equipment was limited. Simply put, space was extremely tight. DPR quickly mitigated the problem, however, by working with the HVAC contractor to design/assist the mechanical needs of the project.
“Because of the limited floor-to-floor dimensions, a great deal of coordination was required to fit all the ductwork, piping, conduit, sprinklers and fire alarm into the ceiling space,” said DPR Project Manager John Foran. “We had multiple coordination meetings with the HVAC contractor and other MEP subcontractors, and shared drawing overlays to make sure all the systems fit. We also used CAD modeling, taking the role the architect normally would take, to get all the equipment and mechanical work into such a tight space.”
The amount of air conditioning alone in the laboratory highlights the huge mechanical needs of the Kavli project: There is enough air conditioning power in 7,000 sq. ft. of cleanroom space to cool a 50,000-sq.-ft. building. Other MEP highlights include:
- All stainless steel exhaust-air ductwork, some of which is lined with special corrosive-resistant material
- Three new air-handling units and two strobic exhaust fans
- Special cleanroom grid ceilings, HEPA filters and cleanroom light fixtures
- High-performance, chemical-resistant epoxy flooring
Additionally, the entire building fire alarm system was replaced, and fire sprinklers were added to three of the five floors that previously were not served. And given the high need for power, the main electrical gear was replaced, which required detailed coordination for electrical shutdowns to minimize the impact on the remainder of the fully occupied building. In fact, a portion of the subbasement that was being rebuilt was an operating cleanroom that had to be kept in service. New construction had to work around this cleanroom and allow for ingress and egress of materials and personnel. To make sure its construction efforts respected the current tenants, DPR constructed the cleanroom in phases, provided protection bubbles at the entrances, and coordinated extra cleaning services.
To reflect the high-end, high-tech use of Caltech’s Kavli nanoscience laboratory, the entrance lobby to the building was remodeled. Also redone were a restroom, two offices and a conference room. In addition, the elevator was completely remodeled, including all new controllers, cable, doors, lobby indicators and complete cab replacement.
“Our goal,” said Foran, “was to assist the end-user so they could utilize the space as soon as possible. To achieve that goal, we brought in our expertise in cleanroom construction, implemented the design/assist efforts, and provided significant constructability input so we could hand the project over to Caltech on budget, on schedule and with their required functionality.”
Posted on June 8, 2011
Last Updated August 23, 2022