Life Science Laboratories University of Massachusetts Amherst

The Life Science Laboratories (LSL) was conceived from a comprehensive study aimed at revitalizing science and engineering facilities on the UMass Amherst campus. The 310,000 GSF building is sustainably designed to provide flexible and robust labs to enable groundbreaking discoveries. With research themes rather than departments, the design team created highly flexible wet, damp, and dry labs that allow for seamless collaboration amongst the varying sciences including Physics, Engineering, Biology, Environmental Science, Chemical Engineering, and Chemistry.

The goal is not just to have a multidisciplinary building, but to encourage a broader culture of transdisciplinary work for teams that consist of diverse disciplines working together in the same lab. When fully fit-out, the LSL accommodates 64 faculty positions, 512 student researchers, and 37 staff positions. The investment in shell space provides the University with opportunities to recruit new faculty and form joint partnerships with industry leaders. To facilitate the University’s objective of becoming a premier research institution, the LSL’s flexible lab design and shell space anticipates change and allows the University to more effectively manage and direct research growth. A key indicator of the building’s early success, the University received funding for the fit-out of the shell space wing within months of the project completion.

Dedicated to innovation, the LSL breaks free from the opaque research facilities of the past. Instead, the building features ample opportunities for community participation and engagement. Design features like glazed façades align deliberately with campus pathways to offer passersby views of science-in-action.

Designed to fold into the hillside to better relate its substantial size to neighboring buildings, the curved facility sits comfortably amidst the UMass Amherst campus, providing a bounding edge to the grounds. Careful detailing and use of materials break down the scale and allow the LSL to naturally blend into the University surroundings while adding a new vibrancy to the campus.

Sustainability was a major project goal. The team sought to reduce the lab’s enormous energy use, while maximizing safety and flexibility. Using multiple strategies, including open labs, low flow fume hoods, energy recovery AHUs, façade optimization, innovative heat exchangers to harvest energy from water cooled equipment, on site water storage (including a rain garden), and a continuous air monitoring system (Aircuity), the design reduced predicted site energy from 70,791 MBtu/yr to 44,748 MBtu/yr – a huge 36.7% reduction (for an EUI of just 150 kBtu/sf/yr).

The University’s mission to move UMass Amherst into the upper echelon of public research universities included growing enrollment; increasing faculty 31% in 15 years; increasing research; and raising campus-wide aspirations. While time will provide an accurate measure of the LSL, the enthusiasm and ease of funding for its innovative research model already denotes early success.

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