Physical Sciences Building University of Massachusetts Amherst

The Physical Sciences Building (PSB) project is a new 95,000 GSF research laboratory for the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The PSB supports scientific discovery in the fields of materials science, condensed matter and nuclear physics, and organic chemistry. The project provides labs, offices, and collaboration space for 20 faculty and 130 research positions. The PSB is a pivotal part of UMass Amherst’s Comprehensive Science and Engineering Masterplan.

The project includes the recreation of West Experiment Station (WES), a 19th Century research laboratory and one of the University’s oldest buildings. Unfortunately, the WES is structurally unsound, due to weak mortar in the building’s structural bearing walls. To save the building, the project dismantles the WES, salvages its exterior red brick, and re-creates the building’s 1890s appearance atop a new fireproof steel skeleton. The “new WES” will house faculty and graduate student offices for the Physics department.

The PSB design echoes the WES laboratory, complimenting it without competing with it. The PSB translates WES’s bay / pier masonry design into a modern vocabulary of gray, roman brick and vertical curtainwall. Gray brick is also applied to the PSB’s mechanical penthouse, unifying the building composition and humanizing the large mechanical equipment zone. Strong, simple details, including vertical slots, reveals, fins, and piers, contrast with the rich texture of the roman brick, adding a human scale.

The project includes numerous energy efficiency strategies to offset laboratory ventilation for 92 chemical fume hoods, such as VAV, heat pipe energy recovery, low flow fumehoods, and a unique ‘energy awareness system’. Predicted energy performance is 23% below code minimum. The project is pursuing LEED Silver certification.

Located at the heart of UMass Amherst’s campus, the PSB creates a new ‘Physical Science District.’  Two new bridges and a new tunnel connect the PSB to West Experiment Station, the Goessmann Chemistry Laboratory, and the Lederle Graduate Research Center (LGRC), enabling sharing of resources and promoting cross-disciplinary collaboration. Extensive site upgrades include an accessible parking area, loading dock, bus stop, and numerous major pedestrian pathways.  An extensive “green roof” plaza between the PSB and the LGRC creates a new pedestrian destination at the heart of the 1,000,000+ gsf science district.

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