A homecoming and contribution of expertise by a Queen's Engineer

Posted on October 17, 2018


By Matt Mills, FEAS communications staff

The new facility under construction in Botterell Hall will further cement Queen’s and Canada as leaders in biomedical research. When the more-than $30 million renovation is complete, Botterell will be home to 80 principal investigators and more than 500 students, staff and other researchers, all working to find ways to help people live longer, healthier lives.

Botterell is one of the tallest buildings on campus, right next to Kingston General Hospital, across the street from the peaceful Founder’s Row and Summerhill, and within easy earshot of City Park to the east. Overcoming design challenges and adapting to unforeseen circumstances are parts of every contraction project. In the case of the Botterell Hall build, a rooftop exhaust system was specified to ventilate the fume hoods in all those new lab spaces. As soon as it was installed and tested, it was clear that it was much too loud.

Matt Downey

BIRD’S EYE VIEW: Queen’s Engineer, Matt Downey (Sci ’09), oversaw the design and installation of an important noise attenuation system for the fume-hood ventilation system on the roof of Botterell Hall.

“When you’re discharging chemical exhaust, you need to establish what’s called plume height,” says Matt Downey (Sci ’09). “This is the height which the column of exhausted air begins to travel horizontally. You achieve this by implementing a very tall stack which is visually and structurally disruptive, or you can move to more modern technology such as a high-velocity, high-plume exhaust fans system. These systems are very effective but are inherently quite loud.”

Downey is Vice President of Parklane Mechanical Acoustics, the Downey family business started by his father, Greg, almost three decades ago. It’s a compact but rapidly growing firm with a solid reputation for mechanical noise control. When Downey graduated from Queen’s almost 10 years ago with a specialization in Civil Engineering, he went to work for large construction companies in heavy roadway and bridge construction.

“There was a lot of public funding being injected into roads and infrastructure then, so that’s where most of the jobs were,” says Downey. “It was a fantastic field to work in, full of valuable experiences which I still leverage today. However, Parklane was in transition and in need of a succession plan, so about five years ago I made the decision to jump over and start working in the family business. I brought an evolution of structural engineering expertise to Parklane and an appetite for growing a business. Five years later, we have grown a lot, primarily through the development of our engineering department and evolving construction methodologies.”

fan casings being installed

KEEPING THE PEACE: The new system includes in-line silencers and an acoustic shield around the axial fan casings. It’s all about muffling the noise from high-velocity, high-plume fans that could otherwise be a nuisance to people living and working in the area.

When project managers hired Parklane to bring the new Botterell Hall ventilation system into compliance, it was a nice, chance return to Queen’s for Downey and a fitting cap to the foundational decade of his career.

“Success comes with a combination of hard work, the ability to learn from others, and a genuine passion for what you do. Achieve this and you’ll be taken to a lot of exciting places. ”

Matt Downey P.Eng (Sci ’09)
roof of Botterell Hall

OPEN ROAD: The components of the new system had to be factory modularized to they could be lifted from street level and installed on the roof of Botterell Hall with minimal disruption to traffic in the area.

“We met acoustical challenges with in-line silencers – big mufflers essentially – between the fans and nozzles,” says Downey. “We also built an acoustic shield around the axial fan casings. Because these systems are quite large, they impose a significant lateral wind load that had to be transmitted into the building structure. We had to design a structural array to take advantage of the strongest points on the roof. Once we sorted that out, it was about getting the systems factory-assembled in a way that limited how much field time and how much disruption there was to the site during the install.”

Downey says there were three major challenges to the task. The first was to bring noise levels down to acceptable levels without compromising the system’s ability to dissipate the exhaust gasses. The second was to do so without exceeding the structural capacity of the building to support the needed equipment. The third was to get the job done with the least possible disruption inside the building or at street level.

The last pieces of heavy equipment, the in-line silencers, were lifted onto the roof by crane early on the last Saturday morning in September. The installation work is complete and the system is commissioned. The last step is an audit to ensure everything is performing as designed.

“You can immediately hear a significant reduction in the noise level, so we’re confident that the system is doing what it needs to be doing,” says Downey.

It looks like this is going to be a nice success for Downey and Parklane and there’s just something so fitting that such an important piece of engineering work on campus was carried about by a Queen’s Engineer.

“I can confidently say that’s going to Queen’s was one of the best decisions I have ever made,” he says. “Coming here was a last-minute decision for me but I took one step on this campus and that was it. Aside from the notoriety of the Engineering program and the school itself, everything about this university and this city was a fantastic experience.”

installation of silencers

FINAL TOUCH: The last of the in-line silencers were lifted and installed early on the lat Saturday morning in September.