The success of Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s new forensic lab is very much in evidence.
As with any type of facility containing laboratories, design of this highly-anticipated new building was extremely challenging, due to the wide variety of functions performed within its walls and the critical need to properly identify, preserve, analyze and store criminal evidence. FSB’s long-standing partnership with lab design specialists MWL helped to streamline the design and construction process for this project, working in collaboration with the Topeka-area architecture firm PGAV.
FSB’s engineering team brought innovation and creativity to the design of the building’s mechanical and electrical systems, consistent with the many types of environments in the structure. Complex and intricate designs were developed to fulfill highly specific investigative needs, while also keeping the building’s operating costs to a minimum. This required separate air conditioning systems for office areas and laboratories, and planning for such unusual elements as an indoor firing range and two vehicle inspection bays.
Factors such as fumes, temperature, humidity and sensitivity to vibration (critical to some of the bureau’s investigative machinery) were taken into consideration for the laboratories. To start, the labs were designed to be 100% ventilated, with no recirculated air, allowing fumes and gases to safely dissipate. Air drafts were eliminated so that they would not damage or destroy delicate hair, fiber and other trace evidence. Evidence vaults are designed to process 20 air exchanges each hour, again to avoid fumes and control humidity levels. In all, specific systems were created to accommodate KBI’s 10 distinct investigative units, including analytical chemistry, biology (DNA) and digital forensics, among others.
Natural lighting was utilized throughout the facility, along with energy-efficient LED lighting. High-efficiency centrifugal chillers also were put in place, along with state-of-the-art fire protection systems throughout. Overall, FSB’s engineering design resulted in a nearly 25% reduction in energy consumption over the original baseline building. FSB and MWL’s ability to share CAD databases and other information in a seamless fashion reduced the scheduled design duration by several months.
Located on the campus of Washburn University, the new forensics lab also contains 12,000 SF of classroom space, plus a 100-seat multipurpose auditorium, set aside to support teaching and learning space for the university’s growing forensic sciences programs.