New Construction

Harvard Sees Completion of New Science Complex

Harvard University recently saw construction finish on its new Science and Engineering Complex (SEC), located across the Charles River from its main campus in Cambridge, Mass. The complex, designed by Behnisch Architekten, is set to open to students in fall 2021. The eight-story structure covers more than 540,000 square feet and features classrooms, laboratories, collaboration spaces, and more designed to foster interdisciplinary study.

The newest addition to the Allston campus offers street-level makerspaces and teaching labs visible to passersby, increasing engagement with the local community. The lower floors offer classrooms, teaching labs, and amenity spaces—some of which function as fixed-seating classrooms, while others are active-learning spaces designed to allow a wider variety of layouts and activities. The facility will serve as the home to a large part of Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) and welcome researchers and students in fields including robotics, computer science, electrical and mechanical engineering, bioengineering, materials science, and more.

The facility’s upper floors will feature almost 70,000 square feet of wet research lab space for biology, chemistry, physics, optics, and electronics classes and research, as well as about 24,000 square feet of dry research labs for computer science. Flexible lab environments leave room to repurpose various spaces later on as needs change.

The team from Behnisch Architekten, tasked with making the SEC the “healthiest building on the Harvard campus,” created a design that garnered LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge Petal certifications in Materials, Beauty, and Equity. Materials used are free of a specific set of harmful chemicals, comply with the LBC Red List, and conform to the standards of Harvard’s Healthier Building Academy.

The building contains the world’s first hydroformed tensile façade system, reducing solar heat from glazed daylighting openings and using high-comfort radiant systems for indoor climate control. Its water-based heating and cooling systems use one-third of the energy of air-driven systems. The two fast, daylit atria and interior partitions reflect daylight deep into the building’s interior. It also features five acres of roof terraces with vegetation.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].

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