Grundfos Pumps the Right Choice for the University of British Columbia

Reliability, Footprint and Smooth Operation

Reliability, Footprint and Smooth Operation 

University of British Columbia, Vancouver ranks as one of the top 40 universities in the world. The campus, just 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver, between the snow-capped mountains and the ocean, serves nearly 30,000 students studying everything from art history to transportation and logistics, and everything in between.

For those studying Earth Sciences, a new classroom and lab building is under construction in the heart of the campus. The $57 million (all figures are in Canadian Dollars) building includes a $12.5 million line item for mechanical component, which includes an advanced mechanical room designed to ensure the building operates sustainably and efficiently.

Critical Factors: Space and Stability

The space allotted for the mechanical room at the top of the building required some tight maneuvering of piping and pumps, air handlers and heat recovery chillers. The piping alone includes six different layers, which requires a specific sequence of installation. Additionally, all the equipment, including the 16 Grundfos pumps used for the system, had to meet specific seismic mounting and vibration requirements.

The compact footprint of the PACO Vertical Space Miser (VSM) pumps proved the perfect solution. With its vertical mount, extended seal and pull-out design for easy maintenance, the VSM fit the compact requirements of the mechanical room. The rigid and reliable mounting service met seismic readiness requirements as well, because of the very low turbulence.

Dejan Radoicic, the lead engineer assisting the design team, from Stantec Consulting overseeing the mechanical room construction said, “You can lie a penny on the edge of the VSM pump while it’s running and it won’t fall off because there’s no vibration.” Mr. Radoicic placed a coin on the pump to prove his point. He worked closely with Jimmy Ng, P.Eng., engineer of record and Alireza Kahleghi, P.Eng, the mechanical engineer, to implement the plans.

Complex Use Requires Flexibility

Complex Use Requires Flexibility

The building is home to a variety of science labs, including clean rooms and wet labs, so maintaining a consistent environment is critical. Multiple exhaust systems from the labs merge into a general exhaust to extract heat.

The mechanical room includes multiple air handlers that use an optimized algorithm to run six fans based on the building demand. In the winter, the building extracts heat from the exhaust and pushes it back through the header to the appropriate section for use by different heat recovery or user equipment. There are 37 connections with 15 different loops and pump stations on the header and load ratio controls the amount of heat funneled to each section. During the coldest weather, boilers supplement the heat. They also heat the domestic hot water.


The tight quarters in the Earth Systems Science Building required pumps with a small footprint and vibration-free operation.

Because the campus system was originally a steam plant constructed in the 1940s but the university is now moving to a hot water system, the building is designed to be independent from the distribution system, to take heat from it when there is excess, or to contribute heat to the distribution loop. It also allows for an optimization between electric power (used by heat recovery chillers) and gas power (used by the boilers), so there is flexibility to shut down the heat recovery chillers and run the boilers if electricity prices go higher than gas prices.

“Part of our plan in designing the mechanical room was to be able to adjust to new requirements in terms of flexibility and maintaining a small footprint”, said Radoicic. “But don’t tell the architects how little space the pumping took; mechanical rooms are tight, space is at a premium, and we fear the space allowance will be reduced on our next project.” he joked.

When complete, the 15,452 square meter building located just north of Sustainability Street will house the Department of Earth and Ocean Science, the Department of Statistics, the Pacific Institute of Mathematical Sciences, the Dean of Science and the Pacific Museum of the Earth.

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