Pacific Northwest National Laboratory plans to build a new chemistry laboratory building on the north end of its Richland campus.
A contract was awarded Thursday to DGR*Grant Construction of Richland for the building, which will cost about $7.5 million to build and furnish. Construction is to begin this spring.
It will be one of three new buildings planned for PNNL near the corner of Stevens Drive and Horn Rapids Road.
The Systems Engineering Laboratory is nearing completion and the new chemistry laboratory building will be built next to it. Next year construction is expected to begin on a nearby office building.
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The new single-story chemistry building will have 10 chemistry labs and some workstations for researchers to use while conducting experiments. It will cover about 16,000 square feet.
The building will provide space for research in several Department of Energy programs involving molecular science, catalysis, materials, genomics and biogeochemistry research.
Initially, research in the new building will focus on energy storage, which includes development of batteries for electric vehicles and very large stationary batteries to support the electric power grid and hold energy until it is needed.
“PNNL looks strategically at a number of factors to develop and maintain the campus, with our science vision and customer needs as the top drivers when it comes to our facility planning,” PNNL Director Mike Kluse, said in a statement.
The previous five buildings built at PNNL and completed in 2010 were paid for with money approved by Congress. The buildings called the Physical Sciences Facility were needed largely to move staff out of the Hanford 300 Area just north of Richland as environmental cleanup of that area progressed.
But the trio of buildings planned near the corner of Stevens Drive and Horn Rapids Road will be paid for with PNNL funds.
“We have to be very strategic with what we build,” said Bret Simpkins, director of facilities and operations.
A 10-year strategic building plan was begun in 2013. Lab officials studied the facilities and their capabilities across the Richland PNNL campus and also looked at the anticipated needs by the Department of Energy and other federal sponsors of research and development work at PNNL.
“This planning ensures that the laboratories and support buildings are in place for current and future missions of the laboratory,” said Roger Snyder, manager of the DOE Pacific Northwest Site Office, which oversees PNNL.
The study concluded that the lab’s most pressing need now is for more space for general chemistry research.
The new building may not provide all the modern space needed for chemistry, but it is a step in the right direction, said lab officials.
The new lab was designed to be a general purpose lab building, but is equipped for the most pressing need now with ventilation and other features to support wet chemistry work.
If needs change in the future, it has easily configurable lab furnishings for a new use, said Gary Watkins, PNNL division manager for strategic planning.
“We had the opportunity to work with PNNL’s in-house architects and engineers, who designed the building to fit the most common and critical needs of our research projects,” said Vince Sprenkle, technical group manager for much of the lab’s energy storage work.
The lab will not only provide more space, but the design and modular nature of the labs also will enable more work in less space, he said.
The guiding principles for new buildings at PNNL are modern, flexible, collaborative and sustainable, with much thought put into their energy efficiency, Simpkins said.
The new chemistry lab will meet the Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Building guidelines. The guidelines are intended to help reduce the total ownership cost of facilities, improve energy efficiency and water conservation and provide safe environments for staff.
The new chemistry building will leverage excess chilled water capacity from the nearby Physical Sciences Facility to cool equipment and provide air conditioning.
The number of lab employees has remained relatively stable at about 4,300 people after an earlier reduction because of tight and uncertain federal budgets.
PNNL is modernizing existing space and also building new space as it stops using older facilities that are expensive to maintain and operate and may not meet current research needs.
The chemistry building is expected to be completed in spring 2016.
Late this May, lab staff are expected to start moving into the new 24,000-square-foot Systems Engineering Laboratory. The Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center then will be moved over from the Math Building. By the end of August that and other equipment should be fully functional.
The building will be used to continue electricity-transmission research to improve the reliability and resiliency of the nation’s power grid, integrating high performance computing with cyber security related to the grid. It also will have an electronics lab to develop and test software and equipment.
PNNL’s Building Operations Control Center also will be moved to the new building, allowing it to serve as a test bed for new technology.
The center monitors and improves energy use and system performance of PNNL buildings and incorporates building energy efficiency software and approaches developed at PNNL for the federal government.