Reimagining What's Possible in Engineering

February 22, 2022

In celebration of Engineers Week 2022, we look at two EYP projects where our engineers reimagined what's possible for our clients.

At Lehigh University's Mountaintop Campus in Bethlehem, EYP engineers helped Lehigh reinvent a sprawling site once home to Bethlehem Steel's research facility.

The first step involved the rehabilitation of Building C, a steel-framed structure built in phases from the 1950s through the mid-1970s. Students were using two high-bay wings (connected to a horizontally curved "spine') as wide-open collaborative spaces for meeting and exchanging ideas. The university wanted to amplify these wings with two-story additions dubbed "mixing boxes."

Engineers Week 2022 Reimagining the Possible

A key requirement of the mixing boxes was that they not interfere with student spaces below – the design resulted in the illusion of the mixing boxes appearing to "float" above the student spaces. The mixing boxes are structural steel; a modified Warren truss that counteracts vibrations and achieves the architectural design intent used to frame the boxes. This truss quickly became a significant architectural feature, with high visibility and modern form.

Another significant aspect of Building C was creating a grand entrance to welcome students, faculty, and visitors. A portion of the existing building was removed to create an expansive column-free space of roughly 40' by 25’ and includes a conference room space offering stunning views of the Lehigh Valley below the mountaintop facility.

Engineers Week 2022 Reimagining the PossibleAt the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, EYP worked at nearly warp speed to convert a former California office space into a high-demand COVID-19 testing site for a confidential client company. The challenge was two-fold: first, to get the 13,000 SF space designed, built, and up and running to assist in infection detection as quickly as possible; and second, to create a space that, once the pandemic eased, can seamlessly switch to BSL2 and BSL3 NGS laboratory space for the client's next-generation sequencing plans. 

Due to the urgency of the pandemic, the timing was the most significant challenge. EYP's engineers quickly decided on a parallel design approach that put equipment into production (early release) at the same time as we engaged in the design process for the space. 

This approach required us to first interview lab users, assess airflow needs for the entire space, and design the air-filtration and energy recovery air handling unit so the manufacturer could get equipment into production at a very early stage. That way, while the equipment was being manufactured, the team focused on refining the design of the space.

The project timeline was sped up by obtaining permits at the outset of the project so the contractor could begin construction even as the design phase was ongoing. 

To further save costs and time for the client, our firm designed the COVID-19 testing space – the initial use of the space – to match the design complexity level required for the ultimate use plan for the space. Front-loading the more complex design components of the next-generation sequencing lab results in an efficient, less costly, and quicker transition from pandemic use to long-term use. Engineers focused on designing a heat recovery piping system resulting in energy recovery (Glycol loop or heat pipes) – providing significant savings on utility costs over time for the client while meeting California's stringent energy conservation codes.