Sterling Chemistry Laboratory Renovation

Breathing new life into an aging laboratory

Can1457 N54 Cdwebsite
This major interior transformation for Yale delivered cutting-edge new laboratories while preserving the building's historic exterior.

Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut, United States
94,000 square feet
Completed 2016

Higher education facilities around the U.S. are facing the challenge of aging mid-century laboratories inside existing buildings—some with historical value and importance to the campus fabric. One such laboratory building was the Sterling Chemistry Lab (SCL) located on Yale University’s Science Hill. With an increased emphasis on improving STEM teaching at Yale, this building underwent a major interior transformation while still preserving the beauty of the historic exterior architecture.

In a bold approach to sustainability and preservation, our design carved out the building interior, inserted state-of-the-art chemistry and biology labs, and married the new STEM environment with the existing building shell. Science is at the forefront of the design and is on display throughout, showing current and prospective students Yale’s commitment to STEM education. Ultimately, this renovation helps the university enhance STEM teaching principles through collaborative learning spaces and hands-on approaches to science education.

004286 00 N4 Cdwebsite
The existing building structure is steel, reinforced concrete and masonry, with a brick and brownstone exterior skin.
004286 00 N15 Cdwebsite
The new roof structure rises only minimally above the existing roofline to minimize visual impact.

Designed by architect William Adams Delano and completed in 1923, the Sterling Chemistry Lab building remains the largest Gothic-style building on Science Hill. The center of the building was occupied by a two-story steel structure enclosed by a system of saw-tooth skylights that had been covered with spray-on insulation and roofing that was in a deteriorated condition. As part of our renovation, we replaced the sawtooth roof area with a new roof system, which allowed us to insert nearly 25,000 square feet of additional program area without significantly increasing the building envelope.

The project reclaims 4,290 square feet of outdoor space and introduces a new courtyard for student and staff enjoyment.

Can1457 N50 Cdwebsite
A new courtyard carves out space for students and researchers to enjoy the outdoors.
Can1457 N51 Cdwebsite
One of the many new collaboration spaces with courtyard views.

By the numbers


A 2,500-gallon cistern provides reclaimed water for flushing the water closets and urinals.


Innovative and efficient light fixtures and layout provide the required levels of illumination but reduce energy loads by 15% compared to building code-compliant standards.


A complete holistic building design achieves over 30% energy savings below ASHRAE.


86% of construction waste was recycled and diverted from landfills.

By taking advantage of unused space and optimizing a challenging floor-to-floor height, the design team was able to create over 25,000 square feet 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.