Our John Jennings has authored a new piece on strategies for renovating aging life sciences laboratories in existing buildings for High Profile.  As the piece indicates, “higher education institutions around the U.S. are facing this challenge.”

Yale University, Sterling Chemistry Laboratory, Location: New Haven CT, Architect: Cannon Design

Yale University faced this issue with its Sterling Chemistry Lab (SCL), located in the largest Gothic-style building on Yale’s Science Hill. With an increased emphasis on improving STEM teaching at Yale, this building underwent a major interior transformation while still preserving the historic exterior architecture. After identifying the project, John then goes on to share three challenges the design team faced with Yale SCL and how they strategically addressed them.

The full article is available online. Below is a key excerpt:

Challenge: existing floor heights. One of the greatest challenges presented by the SCL renovation was the existing low floor-to-floor height of 11’-6” at the second floor, which was limiting for modern lab planning. Typically, contemporary lab buildings need larger floor-to-floor heights to accommodate ductwork and piping that is required for fume hoods and utilities. A lower floor-to-floor height can place limitations on the types of labs that can be accommodated.

Solution. The design team explored a floor-to-floor height of 14’-6” for the infill construction. While commensurate with contemporary lab planning and a source of future planning flexibility, the 14’-6” height would have raised the infill construction in the center of the building up 3’ above the perimeter rooms, which would require a system of ramps and stairs on the third floor chemistry level and an overall loss of program space. The design team recommended, and Yale University agreed, to maintain the low floor-to-floor height and open the ceilings for the second-floor biology level.

The use of cellular beams allowed piping and electrical conduits to be located in the same zone as the building structure on the second floor. Locating the biology labs on the second floor minimized the need for large ducts, as are required for chemistry labs. The biology labs, support labs, and MEP infrastructure were designed to fit within the existing low floor-to-floor height of 11’-6” by strategically locating the ductwork, conduit, plumbing, and lighting systems in limited areas. The third, top floor with chemistry labs is designed with a taller floor-to-floor height to accommodate large ductwork needed to exhaust the large number of fume hoods.

Learn more about the Yale Sterling Chemistry Lab >