University of Oregon’s Lewis Integrative Science Building Becomes First LEED Platinum Higher Education Laboratory Building in Oregon

(December 11, 2013) - The Robert and Beverly Lewis Integrative Science Building at the University of Oregon, fully completed in July 2013, was awarded LEED Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The certification is a first for a higher education laboratory building in the state, and one of only a few in the country.

The $51 million, 103,000 SF building, designed by HDR and THA Architecture, and constructed by Lease Crutcher Lewis, is home to research clusters centered around interdisciplinary and integrative research missions; its purpose is to create new synergies across diverse academic disciplines by literally uniting the sciences. The majority of the building is devoted to studying the brain and its functions, specifically cognitive neuroscience, systems neuroscience and genetics research. The building also houses the Support Network for Research and Innovation in Solar Energy (SuNRISE), a program working to advance solar technology, and the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry, a part of UO's pioneering green chemistry program.

The overarching goal of the design was to support the premise of science as an open, collaborative process rather than an isolated exercise conducted behind closed doors. The underlying goal was to set a new standard for sustainable design at the university by weaving sustainability into every aspect of the building; the building is now the first LEED Platinum campus building at the university.  

"Science buildings present numerous sustainable design challenges that are difficult to solve, mainly because of their complex equipment and stringent ventilation requirements," said Regina Filipowicz, senior laboratory planner in HDR Architecture's Portland office. "But due to the University of Oregon's commitment to environmental responsibility, our integrated team was able to develop some truly innovative sustainable strategies—some that I've never before seen in my 26 years as a planner."

For example, the building extracts waste heat from a utility tunnel below the site and uses the heat to control temperature in laboratories and office spaces. The entire building uses 62% less energy than conventionally designed buildings of similar size and function, with 17% of that savings coming from the reuse of waste heat. Other innovative strategies include variable flow chemical fume hoods equipped with automatic sashes that close when not in use, reclaiming reverse osmosis treated water from a neighboring zebra fish research facility for flushing all urinals and toilets, and an expansive atrium skylight providing natural illumination for the entire atrium space and neighboring offices.

"The daylight in a building with such a deep footprint is especially impressive," noted Laurie Canup with THA Architecture. "We actually worked with University of Oregon's lighting laboratory to ensure that the size and placement of the skylight in the atrium would provide optimal daylight levels while controlling glare. The natural daylight allows the lights to be turned off during the day and the reduction in lighting power density delivers significant energy savings, not to mention that ample windows create views which support a dynamic working environment." 

Other highlighted sustainable features include:

  • Bamboo, a rapidly renewable building material, is the predominant wood finish material, used throughout the atrium and in the laboratory spaces
  • Local building materials are utilized whenever possible
  • Operable windows with a built-in occupant notification system: red and green lights notify users when opening windows is appropriate
  • 28 rooftop solar panels provide domestic hot water
  • Heat recovery captures and re-uses waste heat from laboratory exhaust
  • A green wall concealing much of the north side of the mechanical penthouse
  • Waste heat from the utility tunnel below the building is recovered with an air-to-water heat pump and serves the laboratory re-heat requirements
  • Chilled beams and radiators, along with demand-control ventilation serves office and dry lab spaces
  • Exterior solar shading and interior light shelves
  • Daylight sensors and occupancy sensors control electric lighting
  • Climate-appropriate landscaping requiring minimal maintenance
  • Preservation of two existing oak trees on site, which included raised pathways to protect new and existing roots
  • Stormwater planters treat all water on site