Today’s Lab for Tomorrow’s Research

Heather Bemis, Hord Coplan Macht
Natasha Hernandez, RMH Group

The University of Colorado Smead Aerospace program is the #1 Public University for NASA Research funds, and all 3 of their programs (Undergraduate, Graduate, and Aerospace Ph.D Program) are in the top 10 in the nation (Sources: The National Academies; U.S. News). CU has had 76% student enrollment growth from 2006 to 2016. With all of the growth and the great success of their programs, CU decided to build a state-of-the-art facility on their East Campus, in Boulder, CO. In the Fall of 2019, the Ann and H.J. Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences Building will open its doors to students, faculty, and visitors.

Hord Coplan Macht | Ratio Architects teamed with The RMH Group and their team of consultants to design a 144,000 sf building (+ 36,000 sf addition) to house the Aerospace Department. CU's Aerospace department consists of (5) clusters:

  • Unmanned Aerial Systems
  • Bioastronautics
  • Fluid and Solid Mechanics
  • Satellite Systems and Astrodynamics
  • Remote Sensing & Aerospace Sciences

These clusters, like many other research-based programs, have one major thing in common: constantly changing research. Like most research programs, these groups do not know exactly what tomorrow's research will bring, what equipment will be required, and where utilities will need to be located.. This building was designed for ultimate flexibility and adaptability. Our presentation will go in depth on the techniques used to make this a State-of-the-Art Building for a rapidly growing Aerospace program at the University of Colorado Boulder, such as pathways for future utilities, modular laboratory layouts with a twist, and how simple strategies can prepare you for complex changes.

Learning Objectives

  • learn how to identify opportunities to provide flexibility for changing research strategies;
  • learn how to create adaptable spaces for unknown research;
  • learn how the proximity between electronic workshops and write up spaces can affect research; and
  • understand the variety of power used on and within this building to support current and future research.


Heather Bemis, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, is an Associate, Lab Architect and Project Manager with Hord Coplan Macht. Heather received her Masters of Architecture from North Dakota State University. She is an I2SL member of the Colorado Chapter. Heather has focused her career on Science and Technology projects, primarily in Higher Education. She is passionate about finding efficiency in everything she does from project management and scheduling to programming and laying out laboratories.

Natasha Hernandez, PE, LEED AP BD+C, is a project manager and electrical engineer at The RMH Group, a mechanical and electrical consulting engineering firm based in Lakewood, Colorado. She has 14 years of experience designing electrical systems (including primary and backup power, medium-voltage distribution, efficient lighting, and fire alarm systems) for higher education campuses, laboratories, and recreation centers, among others. Natasha is a graduate of Kansas State University.


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