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

Breathing new life into an aging laboratory

Yale University, Sterling Chemistry Lab, New Haven, CT

Aging mid-century laboratories have become a pressing challenge for universities across the country. The post-WWII era brought a surge of increased science research funding that catalyzed a boom in the construction of science facilities on campuses. Today, universities are at a crossroads with what to do with these buildings and the laboratories within them to meet the needs of 21st-century science education: Is it wiser to renovate these existing structures or completely rebuild?

For Yale University, the decision to renovate its historic Sterling Chemistry Lab (SCL) was a major opportunity for design innovation. In a bold approach to sustainability and preservation, our team carved out the building interior and inserted ultramodern chemistry and biology labs while maintaining the historic exterior.


CAN1457_N23_mediumYale University, Sterling Chemistry LaboratoryYale University, Sterling Chemistry Laboratory

By taking advantage of unused space and optimizing a challenging floor-to-floor height, we were able to create over 25,000 sf of additional programming and gathering space within the existing footprint. Sustainable strategies like a recirculated water system that saves millions of gallons of potable water annually contributed to the project’s LEED Gold status.

Yale’s SCL is a true testament to what universities can accomplish with a historic building and the aging laboratories within. The modern space demonstrates both Yale’s commitment to science education and its respect for its historic campus context.

In addition to having led the renovation effort in association with HBRA Architects, we provided Yale University a full-service solution, from laboratory programming, planning and design development through construction.

What’s on the horizon for science education?

In order to keep up with the vast opportunities in STEM-related job fields, it is up to colleges and universities across the country to find innovative ways to meet this growing demand. Often, universities find themselves strapped for funding, with aging facilities and no plan for the future. How can design better prepare universities for the future?


A recirculated water system saves millions of gallons of potable water annually.