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Designing a Sustainable Science Community

Bob Pahl, AIA, LEED AP, Tsoi/Kobus & Associates, Inc.
Deb Robertson, Clark University

Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, has just completed a major expansion to their science department—a new Biosciences Building and renovations to an existing campus building into a Math/Physics facility. Our poster will explore three scales of sustainable design ideas incorporated into this project.

We will begin by looking at the large campus scale and the early decisions that formed this project. Clark University's President made a bold commitment early on to enhance the sciences at Clark, setting in motion an overhaul of the science buildings and a vision for a new science quad. Sustainable design principles were fundamental drivers from the onset of design, starting with site selection, which considered solar orientation, tree preservation, transforming an impervious parking lot into a new science quad, and strategically positioning the new building to upgrade a neglected public street edge and simultaneously put the "Sciences on Display." Historically Clark has been very conscious about energy efficiency and conservation (a cogeneration plant has been in use on the site since the 1980s), so the design team was able to capitalize on that and translate both of these large ideas into, first a strategic master plan and then a science teaching building that is anticipated to receive a LEED Gold level certification.

Secondly the poster will show the project at the building scale—the design of the new biosciences building and renovation of the existing building into Math/Physics. The new biosciences teaching and laboratory building incorporates state-of-the-art energy saving devices, such as exterior sunshades to minimize heat gain and glare, interior lightshelves to maximize daylight and reduce the need for artificial lighting, and an HVAC system which is expected to produce a 40 percent energy savings over conventional designs. In addition, the renovation of an historic brick warehouse-type campus building for Math/Physics and Computer Science creates an environment that helps meet changing departmental needs and allows for the recycling/reuse of this building.

Lastly the poster will show the project from the user perspective, including both faculty and student input. Issues to be explored will include how ideas of sustainable design and the resulting use of the building has created an atmosphere that re-circulates ideas back into the science community that will lead to new projects and help spread the concepts into other academic environments.

Labs21 Connection:

This project is unique in that in addition to functioning as a teaching space, the building serves as a teaching tool. Clark University is planning an environmental sciences educational program aimed at undergraduate and graduate students, the Clark community and general public, and neighborhood youth that incorporates aspects of the building design and performance into several courses in the curriculum. An extensive "Did you know?" signage program will also educate the building's occupants on innovative water and energy conservation, as well as heightened indoor air quality and recycled materials use. Also of note, the teaching labs were designed as flexible spaces that can be used as either lecture space or lab space as needed. This means that the rooms have higher utilization rates and longer hours of operation, which translates to building fewer classrooms.

The poster will reflect the Labs21 Approach to laboratory design by sharing how what started as a desire to conserve energy and control operating costs evolved into a comprehensive sustainable design process. The mechanical system incorporates an enthalpy heat wheel that transfers heat between the exhaust and supply sides of the system. Interior lightshelves harvest daylight to offset building lighting; occupancy sensor lighting controls are utilized throughout the building. The plumbing system conserves water consumption with the use of super low-flow water closets and waterless urinals. "Green" construction materials include cherry wood from a FSC certified forest and materials with high post-consumer recycled content from carpet to ceiling tile to structural steel.


Bob Pahl, AIA, LEED AP, is a skilled institutional planner, programmer, and designer. He is adept at managing master planning, feasibility and programming projects—including the complexities of achieving synergy of the site plan, program, building design, and interior space planning. As the project architect-interior for Clark University, Bob managed the user process and coordinated the interior and exterior design to ensure continuity. He was also a champion of the LEED design efforts. Bob holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the Boston Architectural Center, and an Associate of Architectural Studies from the State University of New York.

Deb Robertson is an assistant professor of biology at Clark University. Deb investigates the physiological ecology and the evolution of nitrogen metabolism in marine diatoms and other ecologically important groups of marine algae. She was intimately involved in the user process for the new Lasry Center for Bioscience and can give a user's perspective of both the process and the resultant project.

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