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Beckman Institute to get energy upgrades in next phase of campus ESCO project

The Beckman Institute is part of the next ESCO project at the University of Illinois, which will focus on lab upgrades.

Published on Feb. 7, 2020

The Beckman Institute is part of the next ESCO project at the University of Illinois. The project will upgrade laboratory facilities during this phase with three goals: reduce utility consumption, reduce deferred maintenance, and have the savings payback be less than 20 years. In addition to the lab upgrades, LED lighting will be installed in the Beckman atrium.

June 2020

ESCO Lab conversion work started again June 15 after a delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the 2700 block labs were under construction prior to the stay-at-home order. It may take about a month to complete the 2700 block before moving to other areas.

Beckman’s facilities team meets weekly with ESCO officials. They’re discussing the next phases of the project.

In addition:

  • ESCO work in the basement has been on hold because of construction on the new 9.4 Tesla MRI.
  • Work on the fourth floor elevator landing will continue into July.
  • The contractor is currently replacing lights the west atrium and will continue to the middle and finally the east end. It’s expected to be done in August.

March 2020

  • Lab upgrades started Feb. 13 on the second floor. The first labs affected: 2720, 2720A, 2734, 2712, 2712A, 2736, and 2736A.
  • Labs 2734, 2720, and 2720A should be available starting the week of March 9.
  • Labs 2712, 2712A, 2736, and 2736A are scheduled to be completed the week of March 23.
  • Labs 2724 and 2732 are scheduled to be completed the week of March 30.
  • Labs 2710 and 2738 are scheduled to start construction the week of March 30. The work will move to the 2600 block by mid-April.
  • A heat recovery chiller is being installed. An all-building chilled water outage is scheduled for 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, to connect the new chiller to the existing chilled water system. Beckman's rooms may be warmer than usual that day.
  • A fume hood exhaust outage is being scheduled for a Saturday in the near future. Another update about this is coming soon.
  • Work in the fourth-floor elevator lobby continues. Please continue to use caution in this area.

February 2020 update

  • Lab HVAC upgrade will start Feb. 13 on the second floor. The first labs affected will be 2720, 2720A, 2734, 2712, 2712A, 2736, and 2736A.
  • The second set of affected labs will be 2724 and 2732, followed by 2710 and 2738. Work will then move to the 2600 block
  • A heat recovery chiller is being installed. An all-building reheat outage is scheduled for 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17, to connect the new HRC to the existing reheat system
  • A fume hood exhaust outage is being scheduled for a Saturday in the near future. Another update about this is coming soon.
  • Work in the fourth-floor elevator lobby continues. Please continue to use caution in this area.

December 2019 Update

The ESCO project has scheduled a total chemical fume hood outage from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14. This involves all labs and adjacent labs with hoods and snorkels connected to the fume hood exhaust fans.

The project's lab HVAC conversion will begin in mid-February 2019, and will involve most web and ry labs on Beckman's north side. The work will last about a year.

May 2019 Update

As a part of ESCO, Schneider Electric and its subcontractors are currently working on mechanical renovations from the basement to the fifth floor of the Beckman Institute. Between the hours of 6 a.m. and 3 p.m., workers are using the southeast elevator for construction-related work. That elevator car is the only one going to the fourth floor during these hours (all elevators may be available during other times).

Faculty, staff, and students who work at the Beckman Institute not going to the fourth floor are asked to use the west elevators. Whenever possible, fourth-floor residents should take the stairs. The fourth floor is still accessible for anyone who needs to use the elevator, but there may be delays, depending on the status of construction.

Watch for signs near the elevators about which car to use to get to your destination. Have questions about accessibility? Please contact Director of Facilities and Planning Rob Fritz.

April 2019 Update

Energy service company (ESCO) is moving ahead at the Beckman Institute. The mechanical contractor is expected to be at Beckman during the first week of May. Materials are being delivered and scaffolding is being set up for new exhaust duct being installed from the basement to the fourth floor. The Visualization Laboratory will be moving to the “hot desking” area in the 5200 block by mid-May. The fourth floor elevator landing area will be a construction zone starting in late May and throughout June. The Vis Lab is expected to return to its original space later this summer. Lab construction has been delayed and is expected to start late summer or fall semester.

Infrastructure construction will last between April 2019 and August 2020. An expected timeline:

  • Week of April 22: Lift and materials delivered
  • Week of April 29: Scaffolding arrives; will be installed in elevator chase from basement to fifth floor
  • May 2019: Begin work on new ducts run from basement to fourth floor
  • May 15, 2019: Visualization Lab moves to 5200 block, the hot desk area
  • Mid-May 2019: Remove ceiling near fourth floor elevators, Vis Lab Space
  • June 2019: Install new ducts throughout fourth floor; new wall to separate walkway to attic and Vis Lab, Vis Lab drop ceiling reinstalled
  • Late July 2019: Vis Lab returns to original space
  • October 2019 through August 2020: Lab HVAC construction continues


Representatives of Schneider Electric presented details of the project at a meeting at Beckman on Nov. 13, 2018. If you were unable to attend, members of the Beckman community may access a PDF of the PowerPoint presentation, or view a video of the presentation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is an ESCO?

ESCO stands for an energy service company. Usually these companies finance utility upgrades with the long-term energy savings the project is expected to generate. The savings are guaranteed by the energy company.

What is Energy Performance Contracting (EPC)?

An EPC is the contract between the energy consumer and the ESCO. It involves a specific project and the company provides a performance guarantee to deliver a specific amount of long-term utility savings. The risk is transferred to the ESCO and the savings are used to pay project costs.

How many ESCO projects have been completed on campus?

Four ESCO projects have been completed on the University of Illinois’ Urbana campus since the RFP phase of Project No. 1 began in 2009. The completed projects include: College of Veterinary Medicine, Oak Street chiller plant, College of Engineering (five buildings), and Abbott Power Plant.

Have the completed projects been considered successful?

Yes. The annual dollar reduction has been about $5 million, with to-date savings at around $18 million. In addition, the projects have reduced a backlog of deferred maintenance by about $40 million.

Which facilities are part of the next project phase, Project 5?

The next phase will upgrade laboratory facilities, including the Beckman Institute, Chemical and Life Sciences Lab, Forbes Natural History Building, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Natural Resources Studies Annex, and Roger Adams Lab.

Can you tell me more about the company that will complete the work?

Schneider Electric is a global specialist in energy management. It has completed $423 million in ESCO projects for higher education clients, including Penn State and Purdue. They have more than $400 million in guaranteed savings in their portfolio, with more than $167 million in savings achieved to date.

What kind of savings will Beckman achieve?

It is projected that the Beckman Institute alone will achieve $500,000 in annual savings, by achieving a 32.1 percent energy use reduction. It also will benefit from the reduction of $5 million in deferred maintenance backlog. The cost of the operation is about $4.74 per square foot.

How much will the project cost and who is paying for it?

The several million dollars to fund the ESCO upgrades to Beckman Institute come from various campus sources. The campus recovers these funds in energy savings over 10-20 years.

When will the project take place and how will it disrupt operations at Beckman?

The project is estimated to begin in April 2019. Schneider plans to communicate plans three months ahead, so units can be prepared for any displacement that may occur. Most of the work will be in wet labs and they plan to target six to eight labs at a time, if possible, with the project taking four to five weeks in each lab (including moving chemicals and furniture, installing protective measures for sensitive equipment, and moving back in). In order to reduce disruption, some labs may share space during installation. Electrical and mechanical shutdowns will be coordinated with each unit.

What specifically will be done at Beckman?

Plans for the labs (with or adjacent to labs with chemical fume hoods) include new controls on equipment, expanded exhaust systems, variable air volume (VAV) conversion of pneumatic lab spaces with lab grade air valves (improved pressurization, temperature, and humidity control), VAV conversion of fume exhaust system with new duct to basement (provides improved flexibility for expansion), heat recovery chiller plant for reheat hot water, occupancy sensors will be installed in tower rooms, auditorium and large conference rooms for better HVAC control, and LED lighting will be installed in the atrium.

How will we know what the status of the project is?

Schneider Electric will have a website for project updates. As soon as it is set up, we will post a link to it on this page. Your lab will be contacted directly in advance of the scheduled work in your area. Also watch Beckman’s social media accounts for photos of ongoing projects.

All questions and concerns should be sent to the Beckman Facilities team: