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Chemistry Annex, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, IL
Oval Air Station, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Capturing fugitive
emissions.
An elegant engineering solution saves a historic laboratory.
A breath of fresh air.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)’s historic chemistry building no longer met the standards of modern science—or the rigors of its top-tier undergraduate chemistry program. Among the ninety-year-old structure’s most pressing challenges was the need for improved ventilation and airflow. In essence, the building needed to breathe, circulating fresh air and removing “fugitive emissions”—the leftover chemicals and odors produced during experiments. Our challenge? Creating an unobtrusive system that could handle heavy ventilation loads while preserving the historic elevation of the original building—without any existing infrastructure.

Solving this challenge meant devising a new solution—one that would put our integrated practice to the test. Beginning with an existing oval work station designed by our architects, our engineers suggested adding a scaled-down modification of the down draft fume systems typically used in industrial ventilation. Using small, inexpensive fans, we adapted the industrial system to blow light jets of air over open beakers, gently pushing chemical fumes toward a low, central vent in the workstation. This system effectively captured fugitive emissions without impeding sightlines, creating noise or relying on strong airflow that would create a noticeable “wind tunnel” effect.

After testing the idea using computational fluid dynamics and developing an initial prototype, we put the new oval air station to the test, with astounding results. An in-lab demonstration with scientists and UIUC leadership revealed three times the rate of capture then vents alone, and was proven safer and more effective than the enclosed labs previously used for hazardous chemical management. Thrilled with the results, UIUC has since installed 56 of the Oval Air Stations.

Currently patent pending, the new Oval Air Station is the culmination of a true partnership between architects and engineers, and is a powerful example of an integrated practice in action. Melding passion and inspiration, design and vision, it offers an elegant solution that not only transformed the renovation of a historic building, but also opened entirely new teaching and research possibilities for UIUC’s prestigious chemistry program.
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Results
UIUC can now work with a wider range of chemicals than previously possible, opening up new research and teaching possibilities.
The Oval Air Station demonstrated three times more effective fugitive emissions capture than vents alone, and is more effective than the enclosed labs previously used for handling hazardous chemicals.
This elegantly-engineered solution met the laboratories’ ventilation needs while preserving the building’s historic elevation.
Currently patent pending, the Oval Air Station utilizes a push/pull ventilation system to “push” air over beakers and into a small central vent.
There’s a symbiosis in an integrated practice that I just don’t see elsewhere. It’s something borne out of trust, combined expertise and relationships, and it’s truly powerful.”
John Varley
Associate Principal
HED
Project Data
Chemistry Annex 2013-40025-000
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Urbana, Illinois
PROJECT SCOPE
Renovation + Addition
HED ROLE
Design Architect, Structural Engineering, Mechanical/ Plumbing Engineering
RSF/GSF
52,000
CONSTRUCTION COST
$21.7 Million
Project Team
  • Aaron Shepard
    AIA, LEED AP BD+C, EDAC, ACHA
    Principal
    Project Management
  • Scott Whitebone
    AIA
    Associate Principal
    Architecture + Design Leader
  • Alli Mallory
    Associate
    Architecture + Design
  • Scott Morgan
    PE
    Associate
    Mechanical Engineering
  • Megan Crawford
    PE
    Associate
    Structural Engineering
  • Matthew Bednarczyk
    RA
    Architecture + Design
  • Jack Bullo
    AIA, LEED AP
    Principal
    Architecture + Design
  • Jim Corsiglia
    PE, SE, LEED AP
    Principal
    Structural Engineering Leader
  • Dale Hurttgam
    AIA, LEED AP BD+C
    Associate
    Architecture + Design
  • Chauncey Kingsbury
    AIA, LEED AP BD+C
    Associate
    Project Management
  • Nicholas Clark
    RA
    Architecture + Design
  • Andrea Paupert
    Mechanical Engineering
  • Jason Waddell
    Mechanical Engineering
  • John Clay
    PE, LEED AP
    Associate
    Mechanical Engineering
  • Steven Dailey
    PE, LEED AP
    Principal
    Mechanical Engineering Leader
  • Katherine Kalant
    Associate
    Architecture + Design
  • Michael Trimble
    Mechanical Engineering
  • Brandon Watts
    Mechanical Engineering
  • Carl Williams
    Associate
    Mechanical Engineering
An elegant engineering solution saves a historic laboratory.
Chemistry Annex, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, IL
PROJECT DATA
PROJECT TEAM
Capturing fugitive
emissions.