Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), upon completing several initiatives from its 2015 Campus Master Plan, is embarking on the next chapter in its facility renewal and expansion. Specifically, the institution planned to develop a new Center for Design Nature (“Center”) focused on sustainability, biological systems and the social, cultural and aesthetic impact of human-induced climate change. The Center will deliver on a central plank of RISD’s strategic plan, to distinguish its pedagogical and research agenda from its peers and contribute art and design-inflected research and creative work to the pressing issues of global climate change and environmental justice.

To this end, RISD undertook a space planning and construction feasibility study to explore the optimal location for the Center, including a combination of repurposing existing space, adding onto and reorganizing existing space and/or adding a new facility. RISD identified two of their existing buildings on campus, Metcalf and Bank, as the best candidates for the location for the Center.

Metcalf was an existing 67,000 SF, four-story, original 1915 historic building that contained industrial shops, including metal shops, woodshops, and ceramics. The building, originally naturally ventilated via operable windows, experienced lack of proper ventilation as exhaust fans were added over time to serve some shop areas without proper mechanical make-up air units. Ventilation in industrial environments is important to control excess heat, odors and hazardous particulate and chemical contaminants affecting occupant’s health and safety. Furthermore, because of the large air volume of exhaust air required to ventilate industrial areas, energy recovery should be incorporated for energy savings and RISD’s sustainability goals.

Legacy Engineers provided mechanical, electrical, plumbing and life safety services for the space planning study. In this capacity they developed a ventilation scheme for Metcalf consisting of two (2) large 25,000 CFM rooftop energy recovery ventilators with stainless-steel plate heat exchangers that provided fresh air to air handling units on each floor of the building while extracting heat from eight (8) roof mounted exhaust fans serving the various shop areas in the building.