Academic space doesn't evolve naturally into lab space. With that in mind, leaders at Wayne State University in Detroit have renovated the Gordon Scott Hall of Basic Medical Sciences so that it meets the school's current needs.
FUNCTION: To be the main facility for the School of Medicine's teaching, research, and administrative offices.
CHALLENGES: This 35-year-old building's third floor was originally classroom space, yet over the years it had been loosely converted to a laboratory research area. Five years ago, a study concluded that significant renovations were required "to maintain and advance our position as a major research institution," explains Jim Sears, associate vice president of Facilities Planning and Management. About 40,000 square feet on the floor was to be renovated to become a true research lab, with additional space for equipment, offices, and classrooms. The goal: "Create a space to meet the needs of science as it's currently being practiced," says Daniel Walz, associate dean of research at the School of Medicine. Electrical upgrades for the entire nine-story building were also called for. But all the work had to be done while the facility remained open and active.
SOLUTIONS: After some researchers were temporarily relocated, construction crews razed most of the third floor, with noise and other distractions diminished with a chute leading directly to a dumpster at ground level. The project site was sealed off from the rest of the building, and laborers and material reached it via an external hoist. The construction schedule also took exam and lecture times into account, says Tom Grace, project architect.
The end result is "a collegial, collaborative, and fertile environment for creative research," Grace adds. Large open lab zones help foster idea-sharing, allowing "teams to interact in ways that may create innovations not achievable through other lab configurations," he notes. Separate areas adjacent to the labs house noisy research support equipment like fume hoods, autoclaves, and freezers-resulting in "a quieter, more efficient place to work," Walz says. Perhaps the best aspect of the design: Although the square footage hasn't changed, now the school has about 20 percent more usable space in which to conduct its business.
COST: $21 million
COMPLETED: Summer 2006
ARCHITECT: Lord, Aeck & Sargent, Ann Arbor, Mich. -Melissa Ezarik