Pacific NW National Lab

Pacific NW National Lab, Washington

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Pacific Northwest National Lab

The challenge of delivering conditioned air into the extremely sensitive Quiet Wing laboratory environment of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.

Anyone who has spent time in an office building has noticed them. They can be found overhead, noisily directing air as best they can into office spaces. Office workers occasionally take matters into their own hands, applying makeshift diffusers, air blocks and even duct tape to divert the cold draft blowing down on their heads and to quiet the noise. Ceiling air vents have been around since the early days of HVAC technology. They’re often square-shaped, have three or four vent surfaces and, despite the best efforts of office residents, are essentially uncontrollable.

AECOM, a global provider of professional technical and management support services, was recently involved in a facilities development project for the US Department of Energy at its Pacific Northwest National Lab. The $7 million, 10,100 square foot “Quiet Wing” was built as an addition to the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. Within the addition are laboratories that house microscopes engaged in fundamental science research. Eight instrument cells rely on an advanced HVAC system that minimizes variations in temperature and air pressure. AECOM provided engineering design for the project, an effort headed up by AECOM’s Naren Patel, a building engineer based in the company’s Orange, CA office. Among the site challenges facing Mr. Patel was delivery of conditioned air into the extremely sensitive Quiet Wing laboratory environment. The standard diffuser technology was a cheap but otherwise unacceptable option given its disadvantages.

Mr. Patel chose another option: an entirely new approach to air diffuser technology, developed by Swegon. The innovation is Swegon’s Eagle™ C high capacity disc diffuser, capable of distributing large air flows evenly and very quietly, without annoying drafts. Eagle C advantages include a high conditioned air volume capacity, a 100% flexible spread air pattern, and extremely quiet operation – even with large air volumes.

All these advantages were important to Mr. Patel. However, the most important was the ability of the Eagle C diffuser to distribute air throughout facility laboratories thoroughly, evenly, without turbulence and, most critically, in a very quiet manner. The laboratory equipment was extremely sensitive to sound and vibration. Noisy, erratic air movement would be completely unacceptable.

The project was modeled, with Swegon’s help, to test the assumptions. From the modeling, a plan was devised to optimize the application of Eagle C technology according to volumetric requirements of the laboratories, physical locations, and the ability of Eagle C to quietly diffuse air anywhere it was needed in surrounding laboratory areas.

Installation went very smoothly, given Eagle C’s compact size and its ability to adapt to a variety of HVAC configurations. Forty Eagle C diffusers were installed, all of which were set for “all direction” air flow.

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Pacific NW National Lab