EBAUGH LABORATORIES, DENISON UNIV.
BY CINDY GRAHL \ EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Ebaugh Laboratories is a $14.5-million extreme makeover of the existing building and a sizeable addition to an older structure, creating what is now regarded as a 21st century building for 21st century science. Built in 17 months, it was 10 years in the planning and three years in design, using a variety of ideas from diverse sources and a few false starts before
the final plan for the 52,000-sf facility was completed.
Denison University hired Lincoln Construction to manage the eight-month pre-construction phase as well as the 17-month construction schedule. “We assisted the university with multiple budgets and cost breakdowns to help them pursue a National Science Foundation grant, concurrent with plan development,” says Jim Kaparos, vice president of Business Development for Lincoln Construction.
He says that Sonya McKay, associate professor of chemistry, was the project shepherd. “She did a wonderful job of interfacing with the Denison faculty, the facilities department there, and the A/E/C team all through pre-con and construction,” he says.
The best part, according to all those interviewed, is collaborative approach that everyone brought to the project. Design started with a faculty committee, and Steve Stein, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, director of design at JBA Architects, notes that the Denison faculty’s contribution was paramount to success. “The biggest thing was to get the layout right, to get the different areas to flow and fit together,” says Stein.
“Good design comes from good constraints,” he adds. “We had so much input, so many ideas to try to accommodate. But if everyone is on board, it guides you to a solution. Because this was design/build, it took a lot of coordination.
“You have to manage the personalities, and all sing off the same song sheet.”
Stein goes on, “We have done a lot of lab buildings, so we knew that part, but the end-users had a major impact on the building, and that’s why it’s successful. It’s not an ivory tower monument to an architect, it’s a building that reflects the way Denison operates day to day. We have never done a project with this much positive reaction from everybody.”
Art Chonko, PE, director of Facilities Services at Denison, says that level of collaboration is just “the way we do projects at Denison. We look at it as the building has to work for its occupants.”
The design used the principles of Project Kaleidoscope, a national effort to involve the end users in the design of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) educational buildings. Dr. McKay attended a PK conference, where other institutions gave presentations about what they valued in their science buildings. And other Denison faculty had been to Kaleidoscope events as well; the school’s biology building was planned using it. “We knew this building had to happen,” says Dr. McKay. “It was over 10 years in the works.”
The first incarnation of Ebaugh, in 1966, was a dark and cavelike place on the edge of the
campus. “It was a big issue, whether to tear down the original building or not,” says Stein about the expansion. “It stayed, and became the center point for the science quad. They used to have to walk around Herrick Hall to get to Ebaugh, but now they can
access Ebaugh more easily, from different entrances.”
According to Kaparos, the building’s location in the heart of campus on the busiest quad made the site logistics and phasing a major challenge for the university and contractors. “We
had to completely demolish the front half of the
existing structure and connecting library while maintaining access and operations for Herrick Hall, directly adjacent, which is also connected to Ebaugh,” he says. “Initially the building was to remain occupied for teaching and research, but due to the extensive demolition, utility reconstruction and safety concerns, the university elected to relocate all of the departments to satellite facilities throughout campus. This was by no means an easy undertaking for the university,” he adds, “but it did generate a seven-month reduction in the construction schedule, and significant cost savings as well. This, along with a major donation, allowed the university to move forward with the project during a very volatile time in our economy.”
That old building was stripped “down to the bones,” says Stein, and joined to the new addition via an atrium that fills the building with light even down to the basement—skylights cap the atrium and bathe the monumental stairway with consistent daylight.
MEP a challenge
The fact that this was a laboratory building dedicated to the study of chemistry and biochemistry made going green especially challenging, due to the number of fume hood hookups needed. Normally, chemistry labs are not good candidates for green status, says Stein. “They are energy hogs, and it’s a real struggle to get them green. But Denison is committed to sustainable construction.” The project was helped in this quest by Prater Engineering, the mechanical engineer, with Heapy Engineering handling the LEED commisioning effort. While LEED certification is still in the future, the project came in at just a few points below gold. “We are thrilled about that,” says Stein.
According to Kaparos, “The MEP coordination drawings were a major challenge due to existing building conditions and requirements needed for the new lab and teaching spaces. Research Facilities Design consultants from San Diego, CA, was employed by the university for the design of all new lab spaces, so the MEP trades produced BIM/Revit shop drawings to help expedite the approvals and fabrication time.”
Says Chonko, “JBA Architects and RFD helped us better define the space. We had to fit a lot of equipment in, and because we were using part of an existing building, there were a lot of constraints. But Lincoln Construction did a great job. We’ve worked with them a lot, and we have a great relationship with them.”
Among the other green features: recycled and local materials used, 800 tons of demo materials repurposed for other needs, repurposed space to minimize the building footprint, sustainable finishes, motion and light-activated lighting controls, and, of course, points for expanding an existing building rather then building new.
Chonko is especially enthusiastic about the occupancy and light sensors used in the building, and says their use is expanding to other campus buildings as a cost-saving measure, even in a culture where students like to tend their experiments quite late at night. The school backs the President’s Climate Commitment initiatives, and its green activity also extends to a Sustainability Committee to look for more opportunities to green the campus. Chonko is also working on a LEED educational program using a tour, signage and an explanatory pamphlet.
The designers maintained artifacts from the older chemistry buildings, such as a lab stool and a chemicals safe, the latter oddly enough placed in its original location in the remodeled building. They brought a sense of tradition to the new space. A southwest stairwell was left intact.
The center of the building contains core services, while the perimeter holds the labs and offices. “This plan let us put storage space on each floor for science materials so that everyone had ready access to them,” says Stein. The third floor is where the inorganic labs are placed, which allowed these labs to have higher ceilings in the new section. “Great air handling is essential in chemical labs,” says Dr. McKay.
She also appreciates the closed chilled water system for cooling experiments and the additional system that allows the water to be reused and not wasted down the drain.
The new building is designed for collaboration, with a modular approach and loads of places outside faculty offices for informal meets and work sessions, complete with soft seating and white boards. “There was a huge need for that,” says Stein. “Before, the faculty had been tucked away.”
Labs can be reconfigured to support group projects and interdisciplinary research, fostering hands-on, experiential teaching and learning, both formal and impromptu.
Says Dr. McKay, “Now I see how architecture and pedagogy interact.” For instance, classrooms are no longer unidirectional, with white boards on all walls for use by student and teacher alike, and tables that can be reconfigured for group learning. “It’s no longer ‘This is the way it’s going to be for the next 40 years,’” she says. “There is more than one way to be. And the building takes on different lives during the day.”
Dr. McKay also enjoys the new sightlines of the building, looking out of her office across the staircase and through a lab to see the life of the campus. “I didn’t realize how important it was to see outside. And it’s so good to work with architects who can do this kind of design,” she says. “I didn’t know a building could DO what this building can. Students tend to be there 24/7.”
Another thing she appreciates: Keeping the idea of a meeting area near the atrium and stairwell, where faculty and students come in, cluster and use services like the photocopier. The idea was another legacy from the old building. “Steve really listened to what we had to say about this,” she says. “This really facilitates interaction. It is the central area where everybody ends up.”
The school is working to introduce art based on chemistry to the space. Lincoln Construction made it easier, says Dr. McKay, by putting up weight-bearing hooks to hang future artwork and sculpture. The Lincoln team was also amused by her appreciation for saving concrete drill cores, using them as incidental sculptures and bookends around the building—until Lincoln employees started collecting them themselves. In short, the teamwork went far beyond the simply creating a structure, instead touching everyone’s lives. Says Dr. McKay, “I’ve added to my Christmas card list after this project.” BXM