Sensitive Instrument Facility plans progressing

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Preliminary schematic design                                 

Plans are progressing for the Sensitive Instrument Facility (SIF) even though not all of the required funding for the project has been secured. According to Ames Laboratory facilities engineer Steve Carter, the plans, and hopefully the funding, should be finalized by February which will allow the project to be bid with construction tentatively slated for Spring 2013.

“We’ve been meeting with the design team every two weeks and have the basic schematic locked in,” Carter said. “Our goal is to have construction documents ready by Feb. 1 and hopefully start on the building by mid-May,” adding that construction would take the better part of a year to complete.

The facility will be a straight-forward, rectangular-shaped building, but its rather plain exterior design belies the complexity of creating interior space isolated from the slightest vibrations or electromagnetic interference. It will have six bays to house sensitive instruments such as transmission electron microscopes.

“Isolation is key and we’re trying to design it to accommodate the next generation of instruments,” Carter said. “We’re talking about instruments so sensitive that the operator will work from a separate control room because the beating of their heart or breathing will cause excess vibration. It’s a very unique and complex building.”

For example, the concrete floors will be approximately two feet thick with vibration dampening layers built in. Similarly, the walls and ceilings will be thick concrete and the instrument bays will be lined with quarter-inch-thick aluminum plate to help create an electro-magnetic barrier. Reinforcing bars in the concrete must be fiberglass, not steel.  Likewise, the electrical conduit and even the fasteners used must be non-magnetic. And the heating and ventilation system must keep the temperature and humidity constant without creating vibration or interference.

“We have an absolute limit of $10 million for the project,” Carter said, “so we’ve been working very hard to ensure it meets those budget constraints. It’s also why we’ve put extra time into developing the schematics.”

“There’s been good input from a lot of players, including Alex King, the microscopy group, and ISU Facilities Planning and Management staff,” he said. “And (facilities manager) Mark Grootveld deserves a lot of credit for guiding the overall project.”

The building is slated to be built near the Applied Science Center II site north of Ontario Road in west Ames.

ImageWhile the SIF is the main project, it’s not the only facilities project in the works. With a recent warm-up, the steps on the north side of Wilhelm Hall have been repaired. The project (pictured left) included cleaning and resetting the stonework, and caulking the joints to prevent water infiltration.

Work is continuing on the renovation of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in Spedding Hall. Carter said that while funding for that project has been substantially reduced, work will continue but the time frame will be stretched out.  He praised occupants in the building for their “excellent cooperation,” particularly during the unplanned replacement of the building’s main drain line.

Other recently completed projects include tuck pointing and continued access control work on Spedding Hall, and finalization of some warranty work on the Spedding Auditorium.