In combining two related academic disciplines under one roof, the University sought design solutions for a new laboratory that would foster collaboration among faculty, researchers and students, be adaptable to new pedagogies and deliver sustainable design solutions.
The five-storey Environmental Science and Chemistry Building connects laboratories and offices around a skylit crossroads designed to encourage collaboration with gathering spaces in wide corridors, meeting rooms and white boards throughout for spontaneous scenarios. Laboratories line the perimeter; glass fume hoods and partitions bring natural light deep into the core and establish sightlines between adjacent labs. Benches and associated service columns can be removed and relocated so dry lab space can be easily converted to wet lab functions without renovations.
The LEED Gold Certified building is inspired by nature to reflect the academic pursuits of these disciplines. Sustainability features include geothermal heating and cooling, storm-water management and a high-performance building envelope with unique fritted glazing. An array of vertical sunshades of varying depths spans the south and west façades. When sun and shade move across the undulating façade the building is animated with patterns akin to the movement of wind across water or sand.
An earth tube system draws fresh air underground where it is pre-treated to heat or cool, depending on the season, before entering the mechanical system. As part of an integrated learning component, a glass screen and floor opening permit students to see the earth tube in action; wind deflectors and coloured LEDs are integrated to illustrate the air movement within the tube.
The building conveys new thinking in laboratory design –transparent, flexible and adaptable, while providing a safe and secure work environment for students and researchers. Nature inspired the design and look of this highly sustainable building; the building inspires the researchers; and the researchers help sustain nature.