Roll Up Your Sleeves
Rice University: Collaborative Research Center
Carrie Byles, Skidmore, Owings
and Merrill, LLP
Ted Athanas, P.E., Bard, Rao + Athanas
Consulting Engineers, LLC
The Collaborative Research Center is an unprecedented multi-institutional
experiment designed to foster interdisciplinary collaborations and
align unexpected partnerships in innovative research.
Rice University has a long history of productive collaboration
with Texas Medical Center, providing a strong foundation for extensive
educational and research interactions and developments in the areas
of biological sciences, bioengineering, biotechnology, nanoscale
science, information technology, and environmental sciences.
The main research laboratories sit on a podium containing shared
science facilities, classrooms and other teaching facilities, and
public gathering spaces. The emphasis on bringing the laboratories
into social spaces recognizes the vision that is much of scientific
A sustainable approach to the design and construction incorporates
human and environmental issues. Taking advantage of Houston's rainy
climate, Skidmore, Owings and Merril, LLP (SOM), in collaboration
with Bard, Rao + Athanas Consulting Engineers, LLC (BR+A), included
run-off water storage and specified sod roofs on portions of the
building. The building will be energy-efficient in part due to its
heat wheel systems, which will capture the energy of conditioned
air, rather than allowing it to escape into the atmosphere. The
air quality of the building will be continuously monitored in order
to optimize the frequency of air exchange. From a materials perspective,
the building will be constructed of recycled concrete and steel,
as well as regional brick. Though the use of wood is minimal in
this project, SOM has nevertheless specified certified wood. Daylight
has been maximized throughout the building, particularly in the
laboratory and office spaces.
Maintaining a rigorous schedule was of primary importance to the
client, and ultimately controlled the project cost and scope. SOM/BR+A
developed a scheduling model that "packaged" the various
phases of construction into discrete, workable units. By breaking
up these duties, SOM/BR+A were able to produce results earlier than
if they had followed the traditional trajectory of design phases.
That said, the excavation package was completed at 50 percent schematic
design and the foundation package for the building was completed
at the beginning of design development. Subcontractors were involved
early on in the process, which allowed a commitment, as a team,
to a specified cost. SOM/BR+A worked closely with the client to
define a scope that would meet the good management practices and
stay on schedule. Costs were reviewed regularly and meticulously
with the contractor.
a managing partner of SOM West Coast, has more than 20 years of
diverse experience in design, technology, and management, with special
emphasis on projects with complex programmatic and technological
requirements. She is passionate about multi-disciplinary, research-based
design and the benefits it can bring to our lives.
With her background in both architecture and digital design, Carrie
has a lifelong commitment to understanding how information technology
is changing the way we live, and she translates this influence into
SOM's building designs. Examples of these technological advances
can be seen in projects such as the Stanford Center for Innovations
in Learning and the Library and Information Technology Center at
University of California at Merced, which was designed to LEED®
Gold standard. Her laboratory projects at Rice and Harvard Universities
will incorporate the latest initiatives in multi-disciplinary scientific
research and the use of space and technology to facilitate further
collaboration and the spontaneous generation of new ideas.
as one of the founding principals of Bard, Rao + Athanas Consulting
Engineers, Inc., has over 30 years of mechanical engineering experience
and has overseen the design and integration of mechanical systems
for a broad range of building projects for a variety of healthcare
and research clients nationwide.
Mr. Athanas has been honored by ASHRAE with an Energy and Refrigeration
Award for the design of systems for an academic research facility.
Mr. Athanas is a graduate of the Athens Technical Institute and
is a member of ASHRAE, the American Society of Plumbing Engineers,
and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, and is a member of
the U.S. Green Building Council.
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