Wayne State University revamps its Chemistry Building with glinting glass facade
The refurbished $71m Wayne State University Chemistry Building represents the conversion of a time-worn teaching laboratory’s transformation into a state-of-the-art centre for innovative research. The scope included the renovation of 96,000 sq ft of laboratory space and the construction of a 15,000 sq ft atrium and lecture hall fronting the existing 1960’s era building.
Designed like a compartmentalised fortress of individual labs and offices and lack of common interaction areas, the outdated design lacked a sense of fellowship and community. Harley Ellis Devereaux addressed these design issues, replacing the small private laboratories with larger, open-plan flexible research environments. Existing mechanical and electrical systems were replaced with high efficiency ones. Much of the new project’s design in terms of the glass wall interaction area, open labs, and interaction spaces, encourages interactions between faculty and students.
The energy use reduction significantly cut operational costs and reduced the building’s carbon footprint by 1,378 tonnes of C02, 3 tonnes of N02 and approximately 8.5 tonnes of S02 from being dumped into the environment. This is equivalent to 1,581 acres of forest being preserved, 10 railroad cars of coal not being burned, 413 automobiles not being driven for a year, and 4,412 barrels of oil not being consumed.
For the Chemistry Building’s façade, Harley Ellis Devereaux employed extensive use of lasers and pre-planning by using the atrium floor as a layout space to evaluate full-scale veneer matches, transforming the weather-worn concrete facade into a majestic and wall unique to the city and the region.
Prefabrication process of the glass atrium interaction area steel helped achieve very tight tolerances, minimised the amount of steel pieces needing to be assembled on site and allowed for quick installation at a high level of quality. With sloping walls of architectural precast concrete and a tilted green roof shaped as an ellipse, the lecture hall required special attention to its structural design. Only four small columns hold two major girder sections that carry roof steel. Concrete block shear walls are embedded sight-unseen in the lecture hall’s interior.