Sustainable Strategies: From Building Organization
to Detail - IMM University of Texas Medical Center, Houston
Mark Shapiro, BNIM Architects
The design for the Fayez S. Sarofim Research Institute,
home for the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for
the Prevention of Human Disease (IMM) at the University of Texas
Health Science Center in Houston, is based on the institution's
desire to create a highly collaborative research environment that
encourages both formal and informal interaction among all members
of the research teams. Our design response was a vertical campus
comprised of spatial typologies or species specifically designed
to optimize the functional, comfort, and support needs of the diverse
uses that make up the program. Communal spacesan atrium, auditorium,
catering kitchen and conference roomsinhabit the ground floor
and surround a reflecting pool. The upper floors are home for the
labs, and computational research and office spaces, all organized
around the upper volume of the atrium and reflecting pool.
The building incorporates sustainable design strategies at many
- Building orientation.
- Optimized penetration and control of natural daylighting in
relationship to the differing programmatic elements of flexible
laboratory space, support laboratories, offices, and common areas.
- Sectional organization that optimizes the spatial characteristics
of different program elements.
- Separate office and lab elements that allow the environmental
control system to capture and reuse energy.
- A reinforced concrete column and slab structure employs high
fly ash concrete thereby reducing the upstream impact of the building.
- Cladding and finishes based on a palette of natural, sustainable
and low VOC-emitting materials.
- A terra cotta rain screen cladding system helps provide a building
envelope with reduced energy loss/gain as well as reduced likelihood
of moisture penetration in the harsh Houston climate.
- Provision was made for future photovoltaic panels.
The building was planned as the second LEED® Gold or Platinum
building for the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.
The design originally included a micro turbine-based cooling and
energy system, operable windows in offices, green roofs, a gray
water system, and a constructed wetland storm water retention system.
These elements were eliminated when the university policy on sustainability
was changed during the design process. Nevertheless, the current
design could accommodate most of these features in the future. At
the time of the decision to retreat from a sustainable strategy,
the client believed that cost and schedule would be adversely impacted
for a building of this type, in the hot and humid climate of Houston.
The integrity of the design as proposed, with efficient and controllable
systems, a tight and well-insulated envelope, durable and maintainable
systems, flexible and changeable office and lab environments, and
well-shaded fenestration systems, remained intact despite the change
in direction. Regardless of the decision regarding LEED the scientists
will enjoy an environment that enables innovation and collaboration
that will lead to better treatments or the elimination of human
Mark Shapiro, AIA, Principal, brings to his role of Project Designer/Architect
a wealth of experience earned through his professional and academic
career. With over 27 years of experience in the profession, he has
been recognized with many honors and awards for his work, has exhibited
across the world, and has been published extensively. He previously
taught at Syracuse and Tulane Universities and was Head of the Department
of Architecture at Kansas State University. He also served as Director
of the Kansas City Academic Program where he continues to teach
a design studio.
Mark's advice and expertise are sought by academic institutions
and organizations. He is frequently invited to participate in Design
Juries, and has been a visiting critic and an invited lecturer both
on the national and international scene. Throughout his career,
he has participated in many design competitions, produced a variety
of studies, solved urban planning issues and analyzed issues of
historic contexts such as the National Endowment for the Arts funded
"Six City Sites: New Buildings in Historic Districts"
study in New Orleans. His competition entries have included the
New Orleans Museum of Art, Felix Nussbaum Museum, Cardiff Bay and
Oslo Opera Houses, the South African Constitutional Court, the Grand
Egyptian Museum, and the Hermann Park competitions.
While with BNIM Architects, Mark has worked on several projects
on both a local and national level, including the Kansas City Art
Institute Masterplan, the Johnson County Office Building Competition,
Miller Housing on the Plaza and the Urban Redevelopment Plan for
the city of North Charleston, South Carolina. He is currently working
on the design for the Institute of Molecular Medicine Research Laboratory
at the University of Texas in Houston.
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