WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University has broken ground on a project to expand the university’s Ray W. Herrick Laboratories. The expanded labs will house the Center for High Performance Buildings, where research is focused on new equipment and operational technologies aimed at developing 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 (NIST), 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.

“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 university noted that the laboratory will be able to simulate a wide span of building environments. Lighting, the acoustic environment, air quality, temperature, humidity, airflow and vibration will be controlled independently and precisely.

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.

The Herrick Laboratories were established in the 1950s with a grant from Ray W. Herrick, then CEO of Tecumseh Products Co., Tecumseh, Mich., after mechanical engineering professor Bill Fontaine had spent a summer working at the company. Fontaine became the first director of the laboratories.

Publication date:04/11/2011