Lipscomb University, a faith-based liberal arts university in Nashville, TN, strives to go above and beyond in the education it provides to its students. The university's commitment is to "the comprehensive development of each student — spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically — to prepare graduates for life and eternity."

An institution with such lofty goals calls for a mechanical HVAC contractor that's also willing to go above and beyond,. And when it came time for a major building renovation project on campus, the university found one, in Lee Company.

Lee Company has been a leader in Design/Build work for many years. The company was Contracting Business magazine's 1984 Commercial Contractor of the Year, and hasn't sat on its laurels in the intervening 24 years. In fact, Lee Company was just named an Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) Certified Green Contractor, becoming the first contractor in Tennessee with that distinction, and one of only 16 nationwide.

The Lipscomb University Burton Building project consisted of three projects in one: the renovation of the existing Burton Building into Middle Tennessee's first pharmacy school, a music building addition, and the renovation of a large auditorium. Lee Company's scope of work was the design and construction of the HVAC and plumbing systems for the renovation and addition, totaling about 71,000 sq.ft. of the classroom building, pharmacy school and auditorium.

"The Lipscomb University Burton Building project took a very dated building and turned it into a stunning music and pharmacy school to meet the changing needs of the university," says Lee Company's Project Manager, Felix Bryan. "It also revitalized the look of Collins Auditorium. All of us at Lee Company were excited when we were awarded the design and construction of this project."

Multiple buildings connected to each other over the years and the compressed floor-to-floor height of the Burton Building's lower level made this project a challenge from the onset. Lee Company worked as a team with the project's other contractors to provide intense engineering and construction methods that assisted in maintaining the project budget while the material prices were on an intense rise.

"The use of the Design/Build process allowed the owner to be integrated into the design process and selection of the systems without having to guess which manufacturer would be supplying the equipment, or which contractor would be responsible for taking on such an exciting, challenging, and critical project for the university," Bryan says. "In addition, the university's commitment to strive for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification and sustainability shows its dedication to the environment."

The heart of Lee Company's design for the three-level Burton Building is a geothermal water-source heat pump system. This system has 66 wells, each of which are 500 ft. deep. The system uses 55 water-source heat pumps, two condenser water pumps, and two energy recovery units that supply outside air to each floor and then to each individual heat pump. New supply, return and exhaust ducting system were also installed throughout the facility. There are more than 14 miles of piping installed in this project, of which about 12.5 miles is part of the geothermal well field.

The decision to use a geothermal system for this facility was a direct result of the university's experience with geothermal system installed on a previous project constructed by Lee Company.

"As a result of offsetting the $565,500 premium for a geothermal system in less than two years at the university's Ezell Building, there was not much conversation about other mechanical systems for this facility; a geothermal water source heat pump system was the system of choice," Bryan says.

"The savings on the Ezell Building were a result of reduction of energy consumption and maintenance expenses, and we fully expect the same at the Burton Building."

The Burton Building system is expected to reduce the energy consumption and maintenance expenses of the building over 40% of the previous cost. It will also help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint of the campus.

The controls system consists of a central energy management system to coordinate the operation of all the air conditioning equipment and to allow for start and stop strategies for the reduction of energy consumption. This system is also web-based, to allow for remote monitoring and other functions by the university’s trained maintenance staff.

Just-in-time Duct Fabrication
An asset for Lee Company was the use of the company's own pipe and duct fabrication shop. Shop drawings were generated for the complicated piping and ductwork areas. The information was then sent to the fabrication facility and the piping and ductwork showed up at the site ready to be installed. This reduced the installation time at the site to a fraction of what is normally required. Lee Company's Logistics Group planned and delivered materials to the site in a just-in-time manner that helped keep the site free of materials. This was critical due to the work being performed while school was in session and this minimized the amount of materials stored on site and increased the safety of the site.

LEED-Certified Commissioning
One of the requirements of a LEED Certified project is to have the buildings systems commissioned. Lee Company provided the basic commissioning required and also gained another LEED point for enhanced commissioning by providing an outside commissioning agent at the onset of the project to be involved throughout the project. Needless to say, the project earned its LEED Gold Certification.

"This is definitely an example of the Design/Build process ensuring a functional project, completed when needed, and to the satisfaction of the owner," Bryan says. Bryan may be being a little modest in his assessment, based on a letter the Lee Company received from Don Johnson, the university’s director of facilities, upon completion of the project.

"The project is a model of how a project (and a LEED project at that) should be run, from the initial designs, through construction, and right up to the training of my staff at the end of the project," Johnson wrote. "You had an excellent staff on this project . . . each and every one of them went out of their way to make this an outstanding job. Your team's knowledge of geothermal heat pump systems is unsurpassed, and I for one am grateful to be associated with them.

"Projects of this scale and complexity are one of several types of jobs Lee Company excels in. I'm looking forward to working with you on many more such projects in the future," Johnson concludes.

That's high praise from an institution with high ideals and high standards, and part of the reason Lee Company has netted a 2010 Design/Build Award. The company can't prepare HVAC systems for eternity, but it does an outstanding job of making them provide divine comfort here on Earth.