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Now in its 50th year, the Laboratory of the Year Awards continue to recognize excellence in research laboratory design, planning, and construction. This annual international competition receives entries from the best new and renovated laboratories. Eligible projects represent a wide variety of laboratory types, including research, quality assurance/control, teaching, software development, environmental, clinical, forensic, and testing and standards.

Judging for this year’s competition took place in February and was conducted by a blue-ribbon panel of laboratory architects, engineers, equipment manufacturers, researchers and the editorial staff of R&D Magazine and Laboratory Design. The project teams were honored during the Laboratory Design Conference, held April 25-27, 2016, at the Royal Sonata, Houston, Texas. The following three facilities were presented with awards.

With a total gross size of 229,867 square feet, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Building is intended as a home for a living laboratory that will influence future research and put science on display to the university community. 2016 Laboratory of the Year: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Electrical and Computer Engineering Building, Urbana, Ill.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Electrical and Computer Engineering Building, submitted by SmithGroupJJR, has a total gross size of 229,867 sf—nearly twice as large as its predecessor, Everitt Laboratory, which was dedicated as the university’s Electrical Engineering Building in 1949. Due to growth, the electrical and engineering department had expanded out to a total of six buildings on the University of Illinois campus—the ECE Building has consolidated them back into one central facility and completes the engineering quad on the Illinois campus. The new building, according to the university, was needed to “enhance instructional and research capabilities,” as well as to become more competitive in attracting top students and professors.

“ECE Illinois involved their entire family in the process,” said Victor Cardona, AIA, Vice President and Senior Laboratory Planner with SmithGroupJJR.Being a student-centered project, the department wanted to hear from both undergraduate and graduate students. They participated in our focus groups like everyone else did. Additionally, we displayed to the project’s progress as we went along, gathering the student input. Their feedback helped us in making design decisions.”

Research labs and classrooms comprise about 30 percent of the space. The rest of the building is occupied by cleanroom facilities, lounges, administrative and support services areas, and other rooms, including a 400-seat auditorium.An atrium lobby welcomes visitors when they first enter the building. About a quarter of the facility is dedicated to instructional labs, and another quarter is taken up by research offices. Research labs and classrooms comprise about 30 percent of the space. The rest of the building is occupied by cleanroom facilities, lounges, administrative and support services areas, and other rooms, including a 400-seat auditorium. The Fabrication Lab alone has about 3,900 sf of instructional space.

The building is split into two sectors: a five-story lab and research tower, and a three-story classroom building. The two areas are joined by a three-story multifunctional lobby space designed to serve as the building’s “living room,” where students and staff can gather; the space is also intended to show off the instructional cleanroom.

The facility is intended to serve as a “sustainability prototype” for the rest of the campus, and for the Midwest in general. The ECE Building is designed to be net-zero energy, meaning that it will produce as much energy as it consumes each year. The building expects a USGBC LEED Platinum rating and EPA Energy Star rating of 99 (out of a possible 100).

Kimball Hall was selected for renovation as an example for the rest of the campus. The building was chosen as the “guinea pig” because of its 14-ft. floor-to-floor height, as well as its lower utilization compared to other campus buildings. 2016 Renovated Laboratory of the Year: Cornell University, Kimball Hall Renovation, Ithaca, N.Y.

Cornell’s College of Engineering had a problem—they were in dire need of highly flexible wet bench research space. The mid-20th century traditional engineering teaching laboratories found in many of the school’s existing buildings wasn’t cutting it anymore. The existing building stock needed to be revitalized.

Kimball Hall was selected for renovation as an example for the rest of the campus. The building was chosen as the “guinea pig” because of its 14-ft. floor-to-floor height, as well as its lower utilization compared to other campus buildings. Despite its small footprint, Kimball Hall features layers (including a low-energy office workspace, high intensity support zone and a highly flexible open research laboratory) that are woven together to create a cohesive research neighborhood. These zones help support the intended uses, but they also establish distinct energy zones to reduce energy within the non-lab areas as much as possible. 

Research needs are accommodated by high intensity support spaces, as well as shared equipment and glasswash facilities as well as a flexible open laboratory. The design also allows for ample daylight, thanks to fully glazed horizontal sliding doors that allow the sun to reach the center of the building.Payette envisioned an open loft lab, which was actually the original intention when Kimball Hall was first constructed. The project began with a complete gut renovation of the top two floors of the building—however, the laboratory and cleanroom functions on the first floor remained operational. A new mechanical infrastructure was installed on the roof above the third floor to support the areas of renovation, and during future renovations the mechanical system will be able to be plugged into the first floor. A solar wall was also installed on the roof. The exterior façade was insulated, and curtainwalls with integrated sunshading were put in on all levels of the building.

Enlargement of the glazed curtainwall areas highlights the theme of brightness and transparency. Installing a new curtainwall allowed for the removal of existing spandrel panels, and simultaneously accommodates floor-to-ceiling glass to bring in daylight. Glare is cut down by integrated sunshades and roller shades, which are controlled by the exterior conditions. Fully glazed horizontal sliding glass doors divide the specialized support rooms from the open laboratory, but still allow daylight inside. Daylight harvesting is utilized in all perimeter spaces, and task lights outfitted with occupancy sensors can be found on each individual lab bench in the open lab. This presents a creative alternative to over-lighting the entire lab.

The Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalized Cancer Care project was fairly quick, with footings going in the ground just nine months after the design team was selected. 2016 Special Recognition for Design: Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Building for Personalized Cancer Care–MD Anderson. Houston, Texas.

The 2016 award for Special Recognition for Design, submitted by HDR Architecture, was presented to the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Building for Personalized Cancer Care at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas.

The pinwheel-style floor planA distinctive pinwheel shape of four separate wings was designed to foster collaboration between building tenants who might not otherwise have reason to interact with each other. A central “hub,” or “living room,” serves as the connection point between the four wings. The distribution of the different varieties of destination spaces on different floors creates a “vertical spine.”

“The pinwheel is more about the idea of separating offices— to put scientists who are typically separated in separate wings together in an office environment in the same location,” said Brian Kowalchuk, Design Director at HDR. “That cross-pollinated ideas from each research ground, and they tend to learn from one another. There is a better sense of how to communicate and collaborate with neighbors.” 

“In the research wings, we were allowed to to be flexible to accommodate almost any change the researchers would have,” he added. On the ‘people side,’ it’s much more about collaboration of different people.”

“It’s certainly afforded a lot of exterior light into the lab areas,” said Courtney Harper, president of interior architect Courtney Harper Partners, about the building’s pinwheel shape. “One of the drivers of the building was trying to encourage researchers to come out and communicate with the other occupants of the building more.”

A unique feature of the building is the illuminated box underneath the lobby’s monumental staircase—the box serves as cane detection, in lieu of railings, in order to meet ADA standards. Another interesting feature to the building is the addition of pinup space on upper floors, to allow occupants to pin things to the walls. The areas also serve as a natural space for meetings and discussion.

Another concern for the designers was to create a space so that people can work anywhere. Technology allows researchers to move outside the office and the laboratory; therefore, in addition to the busy central hub space, quite zones were also installed to give building occupants choices of where to go. This is especially important as the next generation enters the healthcare workforce.


MaryBeth DiDonna is the Editor of Laboratory Design. www.labdesignnews.com; marybeth.didonna@advantagemedia.com; @LabDesignNews

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