With an enrollment of approximately 31,000 students per semester and a 273-acre main campus, the College of DuPage (COD) ranks third among the nation's largest single-campus community colleges. To ensure it continues to meet community and student expectations, the Glen Ellyn, Ill.-based school is undergoing a $300-million renewal. Part of this upgrade includes construction of a $50-million, 177,000-sq-ft technical education center to house the architecture, automotive technology, computer-aided design, construction management, electro-mechanical technology, electronics-integrated engineering technology, HVAC/R, interior design, manufacturing technology, ornamental horticulture, and welding technology programs.

“The technical center was designed to be used as a teaching tool,” explains Jeff Leesman, P.E., LEED® AP, lead electrical engineer for Rock Island, Ill.-headquartered KJWW Engineering, consulting engineers for the project's mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, and structural & technology systems. “For example, MEP systems were purposefully left exposed in the shop areas. In classrooms and corridors, a floating ceiling grid was employed, allowing students to view the systems located above.”

In addition, the building's electronics labs are designed for hands-on demonstration. A common lab service room includes the suite's electrical connections with real-time power monitoring/metering for student interaction.

“Conduit infrastructure installed throughout the suite enables hands-on demonstration of networking,” adds Leesman. “There are even pathways to the roof for connecting satellites and antennas.”

Like many new buildings today, the technical education center incorporates various sustainable elements, including a 1,100-ton chiller plant with VFO-controlled compressors and a condensing boiler plant. Other energy-saving features include the widespread use of low-mercury T8 lamps as well as daylight/occupancy sensors and lighting controls that are integrated into a centralized building automation system.

According to Leesman, constructing the facility to LEED specifications proved to be challenging.

“The biggest obstacle KJWW faced was satisfying the programmatic requirements while meeting the client's sustainability goals,” he says. “This is because many of the technical program's space requirements go against being sustainable. Take the welding shop, for instance. This area requires light levels greater than 100 fc and extensive exhaust. To control energy usage, we equipped all 32 welding booths with an individual snorkel arm exhaust with integral task lighting and automatic arc sensing to control the dust collection system VFD.”

In addition, the building features a 30-bay automotive lab and four “drive-in” automotive classrooms, which not only required power, data, and compressed air to be supplied to each service location, but also in-floor vehicle exhaust systems, in-ground dynamometers, and in-ground auto lifts with lighting set into the floor slab to illuminate the underside of automobiles.

Another challenge included integrating flexibility into the HVAC, construction, and manufacturing labs, which KJWW overcame by installing extensive overhead electrical track busway systems that can power any piece of equipment in any location, regardless of voltage, phase, or load requirements.

“This adds to the building's sustainable goals, because it negates the need to add or remove conduit and wiring when equipment changes are made,” Leesman notes.

Despite these challenges, the COD technical education center opened on time for fall 2009 classes.

“This building is an engineer's dream,” says Leesman. “Designing and building each program's space was a project within itself.”