Educating the design and construction industry in support of cleanroom construction

Educating the design and construction industry in support of cleanroom construction

Industry organizations team with academia to address new technology in the classroom.

By Bob Predmore

Xyberspec, a mid-size company manufacturing microcontrollers used for “audiophile” grade stereo components, is planning to build and operate a research & development and pilot line facility. The “Board of Directors” loosely

defined their requirements as a 0.35-micron technology microcontroller process requiring 10,000 ft2 of M1.5 cleanroom in a “bay and chase” configuration. The budget is targeted at $20 million and the facility needs to be ready in 12 months for first tool installation. For this difficult task Xyberspec requested comprehensive design/build proposals and presentations from six “companies,” all members of whom were part of a graduate study course at Arizona State University (ASU; Tempe, AZ).

Having students prepare detailed proposals may sound unrealistic, but in this case, Xyberspec is a fictitious company and the students had been highly trained for this challenge. They had just completed a comprehensive graduate course covering all aspects of an advanced technology cleanroom project being taught by a team of experienced industry specialists in each field of expertise necessary to address the owner`s project.

“CON598-Cleanroom Construction” is a graduate level course orchestrated by Dr. Allan Chasey within the ASU Del E. Webb School of Construction developed under the guidance of the School`s Industry Advisory Council (IAC) and the Alliance for Construction Excellence (ACE) organization. This course is considered a model of academia and industry working together to respond to a defined industry need. This is the first comprehensive course targeting cleanroom construction, and is also considered the first at having so many experts in industry volunteering their time to teach detailed modules within a graduate course.

The industry problem

Before describing the course itself, it`s important to understand the need and the drivers that led to its development. Within the past few years, the design and construction industry has been overwhelmed with the capacity expansion requirements from both the semiconductor industry and associated industries utilizing advanced technology and techniques in cleanroom construction.

The semiconductor industry grew from $52 billion in 1990 to $145 billion in 1995, and the future projections show the industry doubling in the next five years. Even the recent slowdowns in 1996 forecasts declining from 20 percent plus growth to single digit growth are always prefaced with the terms of a strong marketplace and exploding new products and markets emerging in the near future. The impact of this explosion in requirements for this special type of construction has created a major resource shortage of qualified and trained personnel in all aspects from design, through construction management and into the crafts.

The solution path

With the Phoenix area known as the “Silicon Desert” of the semiconductor industry, the IAC Executive Board is well-versed on semiconductor needs, and quickly presented the critical requirement for expanded education to support this specific area of cleanroom construction. Fortunately, ASU and the IAC had a very strong implementing organization that was already structured and operational to allow driving the task forward. ACE members volunteer their time on various task forces to develop new ideas, sponsor research, and create focused, relevant training tools. The Cleanroom Construction Taskforce was developed within the ACE program to attack the industry problem. The task force immediately determined that developing an educational body of knowledge targeted toward current and future professionals would be the first step, with the action being the creation of a graduate course offered within the university.

Course development

The course development was not an easy task. The topic has not textbooks that could be used and academic professors have limited experience with this type of construction. Building a semiconductor cleanroom is like constructing a chemical plant with hundreds of different, yet interrelated processing tools, inside a building cleaner than an operating room — and completing it within 12 months. In addition, owners frequently construct without knowing what the end product requires or what the facility will look like. It is a very difficult form of construction.

In order to develop the course, the Institute of Environmental Sciences Recommended Practice 012.1 — “Considerations in Cleanroom Design” was used as the most comprehensive published document covering all topics and this also provided reference to other critical sources of industry accepted standards. Motorola provided the course material to ASU under a special license agreement with the Institute of Environmental Sciences, and the Institute`s Arizona chapter also provided a full-year membership to the Institute to the graduates to encourage their continuing technical pursuit in the field. The Institute is a professional technical society dedicated to enhancing process and product quality through the advancement of controlled environment technology. It is Secretariat of ISO Technical Committee 209, which is developing international cleanroom standards.

The most important success of the course creation effort was the ability of IAC and ACE to obtain a strong commitment from some of the most experienced industry specialists in the country. Each prepared, then presented a three-hour module. From the beginning, it was acknowledged that no single individual could have the knowledge to teach the critical aspects that encompass both the design and construction of these facilities. The topical areas for the 16 module course were carefully orchestrated to provide the students with the tools to effectively respond to the course semester project to prepare a design/build proposal for the fictitious company Xyberspec. The curriculum covered critical aspects of specialty knowledge required to make a cleanroom construction project work (refer to Figure 1). This was not a course on how to build a building, but it was about how to create a semiconductor fabrication plant from inception to start-up.

Wide-ranging experts

The experts in each field were selected, targeting specific areas within the course outline. The professionals presenting each module are shown below in the order of their presentation (refer to Figure 2).

Dave Madden, a facility manager with Motorola, introduced the course direction and presented an owner`s viewpoint of the critical needs of cleanroom facilities and critical system components.

Dr. Michael Kozicki of ASU`s Electrical Engineering Department presented theories of microcontamination management and process-related issues for semiconductor manufacturing.

Ray Weiss of Weiss Technical is a noted expert on cleanroom construction protocol, gowning and contamination control.

John Coffman of Motorola presented the various types of processing equipment, support equipment, and the multiple complexities of installation and definition of all the various utility and service requirements.

Cliff Paul of Paul Koehler Consulting Structural Engineers presented the first facility engineering design module on the special building structural requirements for fabrication facilities and was assisted by Frank Huback of Frank Huback Associates on interrelating the impact of vibration criteria to the structural design.

Gary Pitts of Ionics Pure Solutions expanded on the detailed design, system and construction requirements for the ultra-high purity water needs; as well as the system of cost impacts of various water quality specifications and capacities being requested by owners.

Dave Zuck of Air Products provided a comparable description of technical impacts and system requirements for gas systems and distributed chemical systems.

Bill Acorn and members of his team from Acorn Engineering and Consulting presented two important modules — the first being on environmental system designs, incorporating HVAC systems, air flow, exhausts, and pressurization hierarchy. The second module concentrated on controls, life safety systems, and the impact of code requirements on facility design.

Continuing with a description of the heart of the cleanroom and its special floor, walls, ceiling systems, filtration and special construction requirements was Gary Nohr of Performance Contracting Inc. The course then concentrated on the more direct construction aspects with Ron Profiri of J. B. Rodgers Mechanical presenting the difficult issues related with construction of mechanical systems supporting these projects and Dr. David Brewer of DAW Technologies presenting some air flow modeling techniques being used to predict outcome of systems. Dan Bassett of Jacobs Engineering then presented special cost estimating issues related to semiconductor systems and the impact of “build clean” on cost and productivity.

Gary Powers of TDC presented the difficult issues of scheduling cleanroom projects to expedite project delivery to achieve the owners` massive goal to be the first to meet market windows. Mike FitzPatrick of McCarthy Construction provided an insight into construction management that ties all the necessary elements together to achieve an overall project goal of product manufacturing by the owner. The final presentation was Gary Rolf of Cleanroom Sciences, who described the certification and testing requirements to assure the project truly achieved its technical objectives.

Molding the course curriculum

Chasey molded this team together with support from Dr. Michael Kozicki of the Electrical Engineering Department to create this effective graduate course. This cross-departmental ASU team directed the industry resources together into a course where students were required to contribute research, or to a resource library, and visit several cleanroom fabrication facilities in the Phoenix area on Saturdays as part of their program. All of this culminated in their semester project in which teams provided a comprehensive written proposal and oral presentation to the “Owner Board of Directors” of Xyberspec consisting of Bob Predmore of Motorola, Bill Acorn of AEC and Kozicki of ASU. The proposals included site investigation and planning; facility systems, building and cleanroom design; a selection of technical specification, capacity, and detailed components; and a full-cost estimate and schedule tied to their chosen scope to achieve the requests of the customer. The graduate course was structured for four hours of outside effort for every hour of class time. The final presentations were so thorough and complete that reviewers were questioning the team on contract commitments and negotiating when mobilization could occur to start the work.

Spring semester results

The actual course given in the spring of 1996 enrolled 32 students. The students included 18 people from various levels and disciplines from the owners, designers, and constructors within industry and 14 full-time graduate and undergraduate students. This mix was exactly what had been targeted, since the objective was to not only transfer knowledge from the industry instructors, but have an interaction and networking between students and industry in all facets of learning. We found the results to be exceptional. The course participants all felt they had vastly expanded their knowledge and some were given new assignments within their companies and some students were offered employment based on the course completion.

Moving to the future

The Cleanroom Construction Task Force is now looking to the future and has a written and approved business plan of its vision. The task force membership and participation is expanding rapidly and now has subcommittees for Marketing, Quality, Research, Curriculum, Craft Training, and Education. The immediate tasks are focused on continuing the course in the upcoming semesters with an improvement in quality and curriculum.

The future direction includes splitting the course into a two-semester activity to allow topics to be covered in more detail and working with other disciplines in the College of Engineering and College of Architecture to offer undergraduate courses to create an awareness of environmentally controlled manufacturing facility construction. Simultaneously, the task force will modify the content of the graduate course to provide craft training and site supervision modules by reducing the technical complexity and increasing the hands-on how-to of building the cleanroom facility. The week long seminar will be offered again this spring and could potentially expand individual modules into satellite hook-up courses to other universities around the country.

Our research subcommittee within the task force is developing topics and targeting funding for industry-selected research in the classroom construction field by graduate students. This will allow specific areas of new technology to be addressed academically and can be fed back to the student population, which may allow ASU and our ACE program graduates to actually be more technically advanced than their working industry counterparts.


If you are interested in becoming a supporting member of ACE, its courses or research programs, or for further information on the Cleanroom Construction coursework, please contact Gary Aller, Director of the Alliance for Construction Excellence, at (602) 996-9856. For more information, access the group`s home page at n

Bob Predmore is director of construction and technology for Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector. He is a member of the executive committee of the Industry Advisory Council of the ASU Del E. Webb School of Construction, industry chair of the Cleanroom Construction Taskforce within ACE, a member of Associated General Contractors Private Industry Advisory Council, a member of Institute of Environmental Sciences and RP-012.1 committee for “Considerations in Cleanroom Design,” RP-028 Minienvironments, and RP-015 Tool Accommodations. He is a registered professional engineer in California and Arizona.

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