Bio Engineering Facility

Michigan State University
Electrical Engineering
Energy & Sustainability
Mechanical Engineering
Project Size
130,000 sq. ft.
Completion Date
Project Cost
Client Contact
Jeff Kasdorf, AIA Michigan State University

Michigan State University is committed to making a difference to their students, to their faculty members and to the world at large. When the University began working with IDS to create a new Bio Engineering facility, they had a goal to create new opportunities to attract and develop the next generation of leading biomedical research scientists. Little did they know that IDS would not only facilitate this goal but would cause a paradigm shift in the way their professors functioned. And, on top of this, they added another MSU hot spot to the project a commitment to energy savings. The IDS team of engineers and architects built a structure with energy savings 42% better than ASHRAE – far exceeding the MSU sustainability requirement of 20% better than ASHRAE. Now that’s sustainable.

The new four-story 130,000-square-foot facility was completed in August 2015. The lab facility serves as a centralized brain trust for scientific collaboration in biomedical research including nanotechnology, robotics, tissue engineering and imaging.

Significant to IDS is the commitment to achieve the ultimate level of sustainability. This resulted in an unusual approach to the design development of the project. Often it is the architectural design that leads the engineering process, but here it was an engineering-driven energy model that formed the architecture.

IDS Mechanical Engineer Joe Schwartz and Architect Jeff Johnson reflect on this project.

Describe the scope of the project?

Johnson: The new bioengineering building houses three colleges: engineering, natural science and human medicine. From the beginning, I talked about the value of open synergistic workspace for these scientists and, needless to say, received all kinds of feedback!

Schwartz: From an engineering perspective, my sole purpose was to save as much energy as possible. There is a sense of competition for me. I wanted to set a new standard both on campus and within our office. It’s been great for innovation.

Johnson: The design of the new bioengineering building features a four-story atrium with an artistic stairway configuration that resembles a giant DNA strand! The true stakeholders are the deans of the three colleges that will be working side-by-side in a way that has not been done before as they determine new ways to function and excel in a centralized open laboratory space. The perimeter of each floor offers collaboration cubes with appointments for flexibility, adaptability and convertibility.

What was unique about this project?

Schwartz: This project sets new energy standards for us because of the extensive modeling and analysis we’ve done to every aspect of this building. We looked at it on a pay-back analysis basis and the amount of years to recover the cost of implementing the energy savings.

Johnson: We had a number of stakeholder meetings to talk about the global idea of collaboration. We used the term of serendipity and asked the question: how can you possibly create something new if you don’t know what other people are doing? So when we are bringing together faculty, researchers and students from multi-disciplines, we are creating opportunities for serendipity.

How did the science community respond to the word serendipity?

Johnson: At the beginning they looked at me with blank stares, but interestingly during the groundbreaking ceremony the head of research on campus used this word in his speech!

Schwartz: The entire building was designed around this concept of openness with large collaboration spaces. We are truly asking everyone to cooperate in a new and different environment, all for a better outcome.

Talk about the sustainable qualities of the structure.

Johnson: MSU is hyper sensitive to energy savings. The campus has had green initiatives for years but this is elevated by their recent participation in the national initiative to have a total of 20% energy savings on campus by 2020. This is a big deal as there are only a few campus projects that can really have a significant impact toward this goal. And this new facility is one of them. We achieved 42% overall energy savings for the project!

Schwartz: The two biggest pieces in the energy puzzle are energy recovery systems and the utilization of the MSU-owned co-generation plant. We have various forms of energy recovery in this facility. Lab buildings inherently use a large amount of outside air. We wanted to recover as much of that energy from the air being released into the atmosphere and put it back into the building. We have two main types of recovery. One is water-based recovery and one is an air-based recovery. MSU has their own power plant and we factored this into our energy savings models.

Discuss team collaboration on this project?

Schwartz: We had to work closely, internally and with MSU, to make sure that both sides appreciated what we needed to do to meet our goals. The building envelope is a good example. The architectural team wanted more glass and engineering wanted less, so we went back and forth on what works best.

Johnson: It was unique to bring the stakeholders together the deans of three separate colleges, and listen to them work through this synergistic approach. It’s unusual and was a real opportunity to watch innovation unfold during the design process. This is going to be an exciting space for research!

Project Overview

  • New construction of fully sustainable four-story science lab
  • Ambitious goal of 50% energy savings; changing the way scientists work
  • Introduction of multi-discipline collaboration in university research setting
  • Resulted in a ground swell of cooperation and support to reach new heights in energy savings

Project Team

Project Manager
Architectural Support, Construction Administrator
Interior Designer
Civil Consultant
Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr and Huber, Inc.
Structural Consultant
SDI Structures
Landscape Consultant
Hamilton Anderson Associates
Laboratory Planner
Jacobs Consultancy
Construction Manager
Clark Construction