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Post-Occupancy Evaluation of Advanced Materials Research Laboratory (AMRL)

Nathan Corser and David Groseclose, IDC Architects

This project involved design and construction of a 40,000 sq. ft. Advanced Materials Research Laboratory (AMRL) for Clemson University in Anderson, South Carolina. It is significant that a co-presenter of this poster is the Client/Owner, who will provide lessons learned from his direct experiences during the last two years of this facility's operations. This was considered a cornerstone building vital to Clemson's initiative to secure advanced materials research grants and attract world-class researchers to meet the University's goal of becoming one of the top-twenty public engineering universities.

This facility's many sustainable features include a manifold exhaust system with heat recovery, energy peak shaving coordinated with the local utility provider, and lab performance monitoring protocols to enable continuous real-time energy optimization of individual lab systems.

A key challenge was the need to integrate a diverse range of research activities within a single facility. The facility consolidates nanotechnology, electronic instrument device and laser labs, chemistry labs, and cleanroom space to be used for educational activities and industry research. One wing of the 3-story, 111,000 sq. ft. structure is a combination of office space and the University's Electron Microscopy facility. The other wing houses much of the University's photonics and nanosciences research. The facility also contains various levels of cleanrooms, a high bay for an optical fiber draw tower, and a crystal growth facility.

An important lesson learned was the need for ingenuity to achieve sustainability and Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED®) certification in facilities for which these areas of focus have little precedent. We worked closely with the U.S. Green Building Council to develop innovative design credits for this project consistent with the principles of their LEED program. In this respect this project helped "break the trail" for the increasing number of research laboratory projects expected to seek LEED certification in the future.

Labs21 Connection:

This project's incorporation of the Labs21 Approach to laboratory design is validated by the facility's LEED Silver certification, and the pioneering role that this project is playing in helping develop LEED certification criteria applicable to the laboratory research arena. Noteworthy technical design considerations include the laboratory's strong focus on flexibility of space usage and the stringent control of vibration, EMI, noise and airflow needed to support the facility's highly sophisticated research activities. The electron microscopic area was particularly sensitive, requiring vibration analysis, isolated independent slabs, acoustic dampening and electronic shielding. A second wing houses a combination of wet labs and instrument rooms including chemical preparative facilities for organic polymers, nanomaterials and organic devices. Specialized air distribution systems were required to support more than 80 lab hoods, cleanroom space, and specialty labs for laser, instrument and draw-tower (fiberoptics) research.

A major focus of the project was to design flexibility into the mechanical systems which would enable the building to readily adapt to the research environment of dynamic change for which AMRL was created. A unique feature related to the facility's flexibility is a manifold exhaust system with future ports for connecting additional hoods, which also reduced the number of stacks required. Transformers and major electrical equipment were placed on the opposite ends of the building from the beam-based microscope labs based on extensive empirical data and models prepared by CH2M HILL IDC. To meet the vibration criteria goal of 250 micro-inches/second, the design included 12 isolated inertia floor slabs. Each slab is isolated from the wall, and rooms were isolated from one another as well as the adjacent corridor. To provide noise isolation, the walls around each of these labs were packed with fiberglass insulation using two layers of gypsum board on each side to establish a wall sound rating of STC 56.


Nathan Corser is a senior architect recognized for his excellence in progressive architectural design. He has led teams in the design, development, and construction supervision for projects ranging from corporate headquarter office buildings to high technology manufacturing facilities. Mr. Corser has over 20 years of extensive design experience working in the offices of Edward Larrabee Barnes, SOM, and Kohn Pedersen Fox before joining IDC Architects in 1999. His projects have included leading edge high-technology research laboratory and manufacturing facility projects in the U.S., Asia, and the Middle East. Mr. Corser has special expertise in the implementation of innovative sustainable design practices and the design of custom exterior cladding wall systems.

David Groseclose has 27 years of experience in the architectural design field. He served as the lead architect and LEED Champion for the design of Clemson University's Advanced Materials Research Laboratory in Clemson, South Carolina, which was the first LEED Silver Certified building on the Clemson University campus. His background has been diverse, working in a broad range of market sectors including general manufacturing, electronics, pharmaceutical, governmental, institutional, and commercial markets. His professional experience has included responsibilities for all phases of project execution and management. He has been the design lead on a number of large scale, fast track, design/build, and conventionally contracted projects. His work on complex project types over the past eight years has focused on programming, master planning, architectural project lead roles, and project management.

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