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The Renovation of MIT Dreyfus Laboratories: Designing a Transformation

Rosemary Siciliano and Roger Goldstein, FAIA, Goody Clancy

Goody Clancy led a highly integrated, holistic design process to renovate MIT's existing Dreyfus Laboratories, an historically significant modern I.M. Pei-designed structure, to a significant level of sustainability.

The decision to renovate rather than replace the existing building embodies the most basic principle of sustainable design.

Sustainable design strategies for this 130,000 square foot research chemistry lab include improved energy efficiency, lighting design and technology strategies and daylighting, replacement of single pane glass windows with low-E coated glass, reduction of resource use, recycling of materials, and reduction of risk to the environment through chemical handling strategies. The new labs have been revived and redefined as safe, flexible, energy-efficient and state of the art.


This extraordinarily challenging renovation while the building was occupied provided the design team, the owner and the contractor with a number of powerful lessons, including:

  • It really is possible to take an outdated lab building and bring it up to 21st century research standards.
  • Make sure that the costs and impacts of temporary work are adequately anticipated when pre-planning to prepare for phased renovation and ongoing occupancy.
  • Make sure the building occupants "sign off" on both final plan configurations and any interim, short-term plans.
  • Planned utility shutdowns should always be accompanied by contingency plans.
  • State-of-the-art lab services that push the boundaries of standard practice (e.g. advanced vacuum or inert gas systems) require more research, mockups, and testing than usual.
  • Physical lab mockups are well worth the effort and cost, and should be done as early as reasonable in order to yield the most value.
  • Complex renovations in tight quarters demand a higher-than-normal effort from the design and construction team, particularly in preplanning the distribution and layering of lab services.

Labs21 Connection:

Working with existing intake air quantities (defined by the existing building geometry), we increased the amount of fumehood space by 40 percent, but used less air than before, ultimately using less energy and duct space.

  • Replaced existing single-pane glass windows with insulated low-E glass.
  • Dramatically increased daylight penetration to the dark, uninviting interior lab zones that previously received little natural light, by placing interior windows onto the perimeter corridor walls and reorganizing the interior labs to create a wide open, light-filled research space.
  • Installed state-of-the-art T5 HO light fixtures in the labs with occupancy sensors.
  • Installed two different color temperature lamps to delineate "work" from "living and collaborating" zones.
  • Introduced basement public space lighting that tracks what is going on outside; dimming when the sun goes down.
  • Made extensive use of new generation, low-cost fluorescent dimmers in office areas to both reduce energy consumption and improve worker satisfaction by giving them greater control of their environment.

Our poster will reflect the principles of the Labs21 approach to lab design in that the entire design approach was driven by issues that required us to design in sustainability from a whole-building perspective.

  • For example, the goal of bringing daylight into the interior labs and maximizing the benefits of daylight, such as improving indoor quality of life and increasing productivity, fundamentally influenced the entire reorganization of space.
  • Increasing fume hood allocation and achieving greater safety also required thought about the building as a whole in order to achieve goals, leading to the creation of perimeter desk areas separated by glass from labs.
  • The replacement of individual service units with centralized systems for vacuum, delivery of gases and chilled water resulted in greater efficiency for the building overall, increased researchers' productivity, more efficient trapping of vapors to reduce emissions to the atmosphere, substantially reduced use of city water and sewage systems, and decreased frequency of gas cylinder delivery, thereby reducing transportation environmental impacts.


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