Figure 6: Skol Tech lab kit of parts.
laboratory laboratorysupport non-labsupport buildingsupport
which created a large, more open space.
Each of these examples, and many others,
reinforce the importance of capitalizing
on what the site or existing building provides and leveraging these aspects to their
fullest potential (Figure 5).
Below all the research bars exists a
continuous basement area. The basement
includes many shared core facilities, materials management spaces, connections
to all research bars and a corridor system
that connects all this with the central
loading facility. In addition, the basement
contains the vast majority of the building’s mechanical and electrical systems.
Below-ground mechanical spaces present
their own challenges; but this strategy provides more flexibility and opportunities
for developing the research space above
ground that then plugs into the mechanical hubs below ground. Infrastructure
can be pushed and pulled between bars
depending on where the load occurs.
For many projects, the structural grid
becomes one of the most studied systems
of the building as it will last beyond the
initial lab fit-out and mechanical infrastructure. The structural system will see
multiple iterations before the building
has come to the end of its useable life.
The structural system also directly affects
the efficiency and flexibility of the lab
space, as the columns are one of the
few “fixed” objects of the space. If each
research typology was examined in isolation, each may result in widely different
solutions. Payette’s research buildings
have examples that range from a 3.2- to
5.5-m module, depending on the nature
of the science. For Skol Tech, Payette proposed a universal grid should be employed
so the structural grid didn’t subtly reinforce
the segregation of different research typologies. The entire university utilized a 7x7-m
structural grid ( 3.5-m planning module)
overlaid over the entire system (Figure 6).
In addition to the universal structural
grid, a concrete core was located at either
end of the building, leaving the center of
each floorplate completely flexible. These
cores provided a mechanical pathway to the
basement and vertical scientific connections
between the floors. The cores segregated
the banding of the floor into three to four
zones, depending on the width of the build-
ing (21- or 28-m widths). This zoning was
the key ingredient towards creating custom-
izable research space that could adapt to
different needs, while maintaining desired
adjacencies. In addition to the utilization
of this grid for typical CREI research space
in the bars, it also accommodated a wide
range of shared facilities including a clean-
room, vivarium, advanced imaging, shared
machine shops and a data center.
We took a similar approach to the ceiling
system as we did with the structural system
(Figure 7). Based on the 7x7-m structural
grid, a sub grid was created at the ceiling
Engineering’s new space
continued from page 10
Figure 7: Skol Tech Bioengineering Lab.
Figure 8: Skol Tech conceptual diagram of multiple lab uses
within a bar.
Figure 5: Skol Tech basement connects with
all above-ground bars.
level ( 3 m). This media grid provided the scaffold for all mechanical,
electrical, lighting and research-ded-icated infrastructure systems. Media
grids are often utilized for biologi-cal-based systems, but we proposed
utilizing this system to cover all
research environments. With this
system in place, research labs can
transform below it without significant modification to the supporting
The initial infrastructure provided at the media grid level accommodated the most basic needs of
each lab space: ventilation, lighting,
electric and data. Additional infrastructure was added, if needed, by a
research lab space developed below.
In some cases, the media grid is leveraged not for its ability to support
mechanical infrastructure above it,
but rather to hang experiments from
it (Figure 8).
Ultimately, the design of
Skol Tech relies on a fairly basic set
of simple principles that guide the
creation of a complex architectural
solution that houses an extreme
range of highly specific research.
The underlying systems are universal in
nature, and serve as the backdrop to the
ever-changing needs of engineering in
concert with Skol Tech’s mission. These
basic systems are critical due to the new
phenomenon found in engineering to
provide a much wider range of research
typologies than previously seen.
Jeff DeGregorio joined Payette in 1998
and, since that time, has led some of the
firm’s largest and most complex academic
research projects for MIT, Harvard Univ.,
Cornell Univ. and Skol Tech. During his
tenure with the firm, DeGregorio has been
particularly focused on the intersection of
education and architecture.