University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research

Project Cost: $17,086,000

Architect: Hastings and Chivetta

MEP Design Firm: CMTA


The purpose of the Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) at the University of Kentucky-Lexington is to pursue new and beneficial energy strategies in the biofuels, solar energy and lithium battery research fields. In addition to the research laboratories, the building also has one Class 1,000 and two Class 10,000 cleanrooms and a 0.5 percent RH drylab for lithium battery manufacturing. HVAC systems consume a significant percentage of overall laboratory energy use due to the need to properly ventilate the building while maintaining proper pressurization in the labs. The traditional methodology for laboratory design uses 8 to 10 air changes per hour (ACH) using 100 percent outside air that would be exhausted through the fume hoods, maintaining a slightly negative pressure in each lab. The design team’s approach was to reduce the amount of normal ventilation in the lab and to over-ventilate at a higher rate whenever a lab spill occurs. This resulted in a lab ventilation rate between 6 to 8 ACH in the occupied mode and between 4 to 6 ACH in the unoccupied mode. An air particulate sampling system was installed in the building which tests the air every 15 minutes. Whenever it senses a chemical occurrence, the system reacts and over-ventilates the space at 16 ACH, providing not only a safer lab but a much more energy-efficient building. For CAER, the team designed a geothermal central utility plant to be a heating and cooling source for the traditional 100 percent outside air system required to maintain a safe environment. Another advantage of installing a geothermal infrastructure is the ability to heat and cool non-laboratory spaces with low-cost, high-efficiency geothermal water-source heat pumps. Significant savings came on the heating side with a heat pump design that is 300 percent more efficient than a high efficiency hot water boiler. A heat recovery chiller captures the heat rejected from the chilled water system and uses it for reheat in the building. In addition to these energy saving strategies, a 3-angstrom enthalpy energy recovery wheel was integrated with the air particulate sampling system. If any chemicals migrate through the wheel, the system will react and bypass the wheel.


The job was a unique blend on the most innovate energy saving tools from AEC’s list of manufacturers. Strobic fans coupled with total energy recovery wheel. To recovery energy for the exhaust system and transfer to the 100% make up air systems for dramatic energy savings. Phoenix Laboratory Controls coupled with an Aircuity Facility Monitoring system to drive lab energy consumption to the lowest achievable levels while maintaining a safe and healthy environment for the occupants. ABB Variable frequency drives on all pumps and fans for precise control and energy savings. Multistack Geothermal Heat Recovery Chillers providing the lowest KW/Ton cost and free heat.