What Is It Made Of?

Tom Lund, resident construction project manager with the state’s Office of Facilities Planning and Construction (OFPC), describes the Natural Science and Engineering Research Laboratory (NSERL) as a “green building” that’s energy efficient and good to the environment.

Among the NSERL’s outstanding features are the colorful shingles that cover 15 percent of the building’s surface. In a process that doesn’t involve paints, pigments, or dyes, the colors of the anodized stainless steel shingles which overlap each other are produced by the play of light on an oxide layer, which reflects a stunning range of color. Additionally, the oxide layer provides a protective coating, increasing the shingles’ resistance to corrosion, according to its British manufacturer, Rimex.

Additional important design elements includes fossilized limestone, imported from the Texas Hill Country, adds texture to the southeast corner of the building and a customized glass curtain wall. The curtain wall slopes upward four stories and spans nearly the entire width of the east side of the building. It is accompanied by a standing seam metal roof, which is segmented, curved, tiered, folded and bent.

The building’s facade also employs a multitude architectural fundamentals, including: indentations, deep shadow boxes, cantilevered surfaces, undulations and facets running vertically and horizontally.

The building is also constructed with:

  • 1,526 tons of steel reinforcement
  • 987 tons of precast concrete – each of the roughly 70 precast tubs weighs 28,000 lbs., or 14 tons
  • 12,653 yards of concrete weighing 25,126 tons
  • 853 tons of structural and miscellaneous steel
  • 22,000 Rimex anodized stainless steel shingles requiring 44,000 clips and 88,000 stainless steel screws
  • 10 miles of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) conduit
  • 36 miles of EMT conduit
  • 180 miles of copper wire

What’s inside?

Architects of the NSERL are Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP (ZGF), the Design Architect, in association with PageSoutherlandPage (PSP), the Architect of Record. PSP describes the interior as consisting of “flexible, modular laboratory space for natural science and engineering studies, such as biology, bio-med research, physics, engineering mechanics, semiconductor studies and electrical engineering, as well as essential offices and support facilities.”

A cleanroom by definition has a controlled level of contamination that is specified by the number of particles per meter-cubed and by maximum particle size. To offer perspective, the world outside would be considered a Class 5,000,000 cleanroom.

Support labs for small specialized equipment exist at the back of each lab module, as well as linear equipment rooms that run and house equipment such as pumps, compressors, and refrigerators.

Main laboratories at NSERL possess large windows that overlook collaborative open work stations, allowing researchers outside the labs to observe experiments in progress.

NSERL also has nine large multimedia conference rooms to support collaboration, meetings, and research-related events. To reserve these rooms for your initiatives, please go to Events and Room Reservations.

All Systems Go!

Safety, security and ventilation systems are installed in the NSERL.

Entry to the NSERL requires card-key access and according to Lund, is equipped with special exhaust, drain systems, gas piping, and plumbing systems, in addition to traditional electrical, fire alarm, and telecommunications systems.

The basement is installed with special equipment that includes high resolution electron microscopes that require very low vibration and low electromagnetic fields. There is also space reserved for a group of magnetic resonance imaging tools that require shielding.

Lund said the quality of the installation “has been outstanding. All of the trades [facilities maintenance staff], from electrical to plumbing, are doing a great job making sure we have an outstanding building.”

Who’s in it?

Research groups from Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Electrical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and Behavioral and Brain Sciences have offices and labs in the new building.

Approximately one-third of NSERL’s space is being reserved to help lure new faculty and researchers establish themselves and develop cutting-edge innovations and technologies. The Cleanroom is one of the first research facilities to set up in NSERL, home to a variety of organizations that perform technical research.

It is completely furnished with built-ins, such as office furniture and the open-plan cubicles.

Advancing research is important and specialized lab equipment is determined by the individual faculty members moving into the building. Please note that the NSERL building is wheelchair accessible.

Research groups that do not require wet laboratory space, such as computer science or fundamental mathematics, will not be allotted space.