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Case Studies

USDA Consolidated Laboratory

The context:

With the significant new animal diseases around the world threatening the US livestock industry and public health, the federal government decided in 2002 that the nation's food supply protection and bio-contamination research should become a high priority. Therefore, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) facility in Ames, IA the only complex in the country to diagnose both domestic and foreign animal diseases received $430 million to upgrade its 480-acre laboratory area, during a five-year construction project called "Ames Modernization Program".

The program was designed to remodel and create new space to host three key USDA agencies: National Veterinary Services Laboratories, Center of Veterinary Biologics and National Animal Disease Center.

After completing the pathobiology and diagnostic bacteriology laboratories in 2004, the USDA continued the project with animal facilities and the consolidated laboratory facility which contains the remaining laboratory, administrative and regulatory office space.

The challenge:

The St. Louis office of Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum (HOK) was appointed by the USDA to oversee the projects during this 2-phase construction program. Sustainability was fundamental to the design approach for all facilities, using the LEED rating system as a guideline.

The consolidated laboratory needed to accommodate the advanced technology used in animal testing so the building was designed to facilitate research and integrate daylight in the current activities, eliminating the damaging effects of direct sunlight.

Unicel’s solution:

The architectural program of the administrative offices area included a sloped skylight and a skylight with a shading system installed in the main atrium area, both provided by Unicel.

The main atrium skylight incorporates a sunshade system based on perforated aluminum panels, specially conceived to minimize solar heat gains while allowing daylight to get in. To determine the annual solar angles received by the skylight, a sun path diagram was created so that the skylight performance could be optimized. In order to achieve the best results for the building, the skylight is controlled by 18 separate motors, each operating 4 banks of 4 shades.

Key parameters:

Location: Ames, IA
Cost: $430 million
Completion: in progress (phase 2 to end in 2009)
Program: new building, upgrading laboratory, office spaces

Team:
Owner: US Department of Agriculture
Architect: Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum
Contractor: Whiting Turner Contracting Company / AWS