Veteran's Administration Headquarters
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Atrium
 
 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

This new 450,000 square foot headquarters for the Veteran’s Administration is a state-of-the-art example of innovations in engineering design and control. The $55 million facility features a four-story atrium lobby; large office area; a pre-school and kindergarten wing; a 1,000 seat dining room, executive dining and fully staffed kitchen; a warehouse within the building; and a 50,000 square foot mainframe computer facility.

 

The project – encompassing the office area, computer area, school, warehouse, and dining facility – was designed as five different facilities within one building. The engineering required a complex series of tie-ins and redundancies to ensure 24-hour, 7-day operation and security.

 

Mechanical

The entire building was supplied with heating and air conditioning through 18 large custom air-handling units. The central mechanical system included a large mechanical room with an isolated control room within the space. The mechanical room housed the central boiler, along with two large chillers and a swing chiller It also housed the entire chilled water and condenser water pumping systems. Nine pumps produced a flow of condensed water from the mechanical room through a three-cell cooling tower on the roof. The swing chiller’s primary use is for the office space, but it could supply chilled water to the 50,000 square foot computer room, in the event that the temperature within that space could not be maintained.

 

A large ice storage system located below grade makes slush at night, then pumps chilled water to the mechanical room during the day, producing up to 75% of the daily air conditioning load requirement.

 

Each air handler was enclosed in rooftop penthouses, and was supplied with hot water for heat, and super chilled water for cooling, from the mechanical room below. These units and their ductwork supplied high velocity cold air to each of the fan-powered VAV boxes. Each box is controlled by individual thermostats, modulates to control the air and the temperature in the room by recycling air at the VAV from the space it controls. This recycling allowed the central air distribution ductwork to be much smaller than a typical mechanical system.

 

Electrical

The mainframe computer facility prints all the Veteran’s Administration checks for distribution throughout the United States. Since this system runs 24/7, the building was supplied with two completely isolated power sources from PECO Energy. There is a redundant A and B side UPS system to power the 50,000 square foot mainframe computer facility, until the three large emergency generators could take over the emergency load. The building has a zenith load shedding system, which automatically sheds load from the operating emergency generators, if failure occurred.

 

The UPS System feeds the power distribution units (PDUs) inside the computer room, which in turn feeds the power to the mainframes and printers. There is a moisture detection system under the raised floor, which fed back to the central DDC monitoring system for the building. In addition to standard air conditioning, the computer room has 10 large Liebert units, which supply cold air to the perforated tile of the raised floor.

 

Fire Protection

The fire alarm system also ties into the building’s control package, and automatically sounds an alarm to any area of the building where a sprinkler has activated or smoke is detected. This starts the stair pressurizations systems, and shuts off each of the air handlers individually once a fire alarm zone is activated. The central lobby and the atrium have smoke evacuation systems, and house the fire command center for the entire building.

 

Security

The building was designed and built just after the Oklahoma City bombing, and the security system is state-of-the-art. Standard doorframes at all entrances had to be enlarged to accommodate the wiring for the many different types of card readers, thumbprint scanners and photo scanners used through out the building.

 

A robot mail system delivers mail to each department, and is granted access to doorways through its own security camera system in the doorframe. The computer room is individually secured from the rest of the building, and is the only area where the robot system cannot deliver mail.

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