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Building Skin Sustainability Considerations For Laboratories

Steve Frei, Affiliated Engineers
Craig Spangler, Ballinger

Sustainable building skins require balance between the sometimes contradictory benefits of nature (sun, light, wind, heat, and cold) and its penalties. Achieving the correct balance requires judgment and careful physical analysis, often considered parametrically without conclusive results. Plus other factors must be weighed, such as aesthetics, context, climate, and function, as part of the ultimate decision.

While a multitude of parameters and physical properties influence the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the decision, some may be more significant than others. This example demonstrates via a case study of an actual project that, for large laboratory buildings with aspect ratios in the range of 0.5 (defined as area of exposed surface divided by gross floor area), qualitative factors should control the decision. This conclusion was reached after extensive consideration and analysis.

The case study is based on a new facility for the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery in Madison, Wisconsin. This 300,000- square-foot, four-story building, located on a central site on the university campus, promotes sustainability as one of its primary goals. The presentation will discuss the project comprehensively and cite specific materials regarding the skin and sustainability.


Steve Frei is a principal with Affiliated Engineers, Inc. (AEI) and leads its research practice, which encompasses corporate research, medical science, higher education, and federal clients across the United States. Steve is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, majoring in mechanical engineering. Over his 30 year career with AEI, Steve has led the design efforts for some of AEI's most significant projects.

Craig Spangler has been a principal at Ballinger since 1999 with a focus on academic, science, teaching, and research facilities. During 26 years as a practicing architect, he has been awarded numerous national, state, and local design awards including National AIA and Philadelphia Chapter AIA Awards. A frequent lecturer for organizations such as the Society for College and University Planning and Tradeline, Craig has an extensive portfolio of technologically sophisticated buildings which integrate architecture and engineering in the context of sustainable design. As principal at Ballinger, Craig has personally led the design effort for numerous major science teaching and research facilities at institutions across the nation. A graduate of both Princeton University and the University of Maryland, he is the Design Principal for The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery in Madison, Wisconsin.

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