Rio Tinto Kennecott Mechanical Engineering Building (MEK)
The newly renovated Rio Tinto Kennecott Mechanical Engineering Building at the University of Utah goes well beyond the adage of “what’s old is new again.”

The completely remodeled building is not just bigger and newer, it’s also much safer, more energy efficient and the latest example of the U’s efforts to build one of the most sustainable campuses in the country.

University of Utah President David W. Pershing and Price College of Engineering Dean Richard B. Brown express their gratitude to Rio Tinto Kennecott and alumni of the engineering college for their support of the four-year construction project, which turned the 62-year-old building at 1495 E. 100 South into one of the safest and most sustainable structures on the U campus.

“As I walked through the new Rio Tinto Kennecott Mechanical Engineering Building, it’s hard to even imagine its former incarnation,” Brown said.

The $24 million renovation has become the new home for the college’s mechanical engineering department with nearly 60 offices, 11 student study areas, six conference rooms and 12 research labs. The project was completed using all non-state and private funds, including a lead gift from Rio Tinto Kennecott.

“They were willing to help us make the building what it is today, and we owe them a sincere thanks for everything they have done,” Pershing said of Rio Tinto Kennecott’s support.

What began as a 54,000-square-foot building built in the 1950s for Kennecott Utah Copper Corp.’s research offices has now become a 76,000-square-foot U lab space with the latest in energy-saving technology and safety features:

  • Energy-efficient elevators — The building has two KONE EcoSpace elevators, special cars that use smaller motors with less horsepower than regular hydraulic elevators. The cars also generate and store electricity every time they go down and save about 30,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.
  • Chilled beam system — Instead of standard air conditioners, the building uses a “chilled beam system” in which cold water moves through pipes that cool the warm air. The system uses 53 percent less energy than a standard system.
  • Heating system — The building has boilers that are 95 percent efficient, much higher than standard heating systems.
  • Tighter envelope — The building has a tighter seal to prevent air from leaking out and therefore requiring less energy to heat or cool. The new areas of the building also have a “rainscreen,” a gap in the walls that prevents heat and moisture from penetrating.
  • Earthquake stabilization — The building is constructed with shear walls – thick, rigid concrete walls that can absorb more shock from an earthquake. “Building restrained braces,” special diagonal braces that are designed to absorb vibrations from an earthquake, were also installed. Finally, “micropiles” were used in the construction. These elements for the foundation also hold well under earthquakes but have a much smaller footprint so construction workers didn’t have to demolish as much of the building to install the shear walls.
  • Horizontal fire shutter — In the building’s four-story atrium is a horizontal shutter designed to close automatically in the case of a fire. When closed it prevents fire and smoke from spreading to the rest of the floors and allows the building to meet fire code without using giant circulating fans that require much more electricity.
  • Job’s CrossingA new pedestrian walkway was constructed over North Campus Drive that connects the building to the rest of the campus providing a safe crossing.

All told, the building will use nearly 53 percent less energy than a standard compliant building, and it is expected to receive a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

“From where we took this building to where it is now, the swing is immense,” said Derrick Larm, the project’s chief architect. “We improved it in every way. It is definitely one of the most energy-efficient buildings on campus.”

The University of Utah’s mechanical engineering department, one of seven disciplines in the Price College of Engineering, has more than doubled in size in the last 15 years and is the college’s largest department.

“Together we will use this space for a first class education,” Department of Mechanical Engineering professor and chair, Timothy Ameel said.

For more information about giving, development, and naming opportunities, please contact:

Josh Grant
Development Director
John and Marcia Price College of Engineering
Phone: (801) 585-7173
Office: 1875 WEB

Campaign for Mechanical Engineering Excellence

Major Donors

Rio Tinto Kennecott
C. Kim & Jane C. Blair
Boeing Company
Don R. & Catherine M. Brown
Ed Catmull
Robert G. & Mary Jane Engman
Christopher J. Flint
Sidney J. & Marian C. Green
Kim P. Harris

Brett C. Helm
Thomas E. & Linda G. Howell
John D. & Jacquelyn LaLonde
The Family of Wally & Jerry Lloyd
Wally & Jerry Lloyd
Harold W. & Lois F. Milner
Jared N. & Victoria Muirhead
Mark H. & Jana R. Paul

Lon. J. Perry
Quartzdyne, Inc
Lynn S. & Bonne B Scott
Lynne Thompson
Van Boerum & Frank Associates, Inc
J. Howard Van Boerum
Geould K. & A. Darby Young