Green Lab Pinnacle: LEED Platinum In Oregon

As the Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce notes, science facilities present a number of green building challenges that are usually considered hard to overcome. There are the energy demands of high tech equipment for one, along with the needs for specialized ventilation systems in lab areas (which also have different climate control requirements than other areas of the building)—but we’ve covered a number of green labs that have cropped up over the last year or so, and now, the University of Oregon’s Lewis Integrative Science Building  is poised to move to the head of the class, aiming for a LEED Platinum certification.

By making use of some unique design techniques, the teams at THA Architecture and HDR were able to design a five-story, 100,000-square-foot building that they beleive will use around 58 percent less energy than a conventionally designed building of similar size and function. A third of the building will be devoted to lab space, while the rest of the building will house offices, atrium space and “dry” labs (research areas that don’t contain toxic chemicals). Researchers from a range of different UO science departments—from microbiology to psychology—will be housed in the building.

Lewis Integrative Science Building

image via THA Architecture

“It was a huge challenge, but through the process we found some fairly groundbreaking building strategies,” said Amanda Petretti, as associate at THA Architecture, in a statement. “(It) certainly represents the leading edge of sustainable lab design.”

One key innovation was the decision to cut into a utility tunnel system under the university campus. Via a series of coils, excess heat from the tunnel system will be used to preheat the science building, a strategy that could potentially be used for other buildings on campus in the future.

As it turns out, having a research university as a client can be helpful in creating a targeted green building design, as THA also worked with the university to conduct a lab study to determine window sizes that would optimize energy conservation in the Lewis Integrative Science Building. The architecture firm built models of the building and took them to UO’s Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory in Portland, where the models were hooked up to sensors and put under an “artificial sky,” revealing how natural light could best be brought into the facility.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.