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Harvard Science and Engineering Complex Reflects the Future of Science

Harvard University Science and Engineering Complex / Photos by Brad Feinkopf

Boston – Global engineering and consulting practice Buro Happold announced it completed work for Harvard University’s new Science and Engineering Complex (SEC), designed by architecture firm Behnisch Architekten.

Buro Happold provided structural engineering, building information modeling (BIM), and geotechnical consulting services for the project, which is LEED Platinum certified and meets Living Building Challenge (LBC) Petal certification in Materials, Beauty, and Equity.

Collaborative lab spaces

Opening its doors to students this fall, the SEC is the latest significant addition to Harvard University’s Allston campus. Its diverse mix of labs and collaboration spaces  were designed to further a robust culture of interdisciplinary work. Behnisch Architeckten created laboratory space with a novel approach to collaborative environments, as well as an innovative, high-performance facade.

The 8-level, 544,000sf building houses a major portion of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), offering multitude of lab and core science facilities. It is situated on a primary thoroughfare connecting the Boston neighborhood of Allston to Cambridge, presenting unique challenges for the Buro Happold project team. Highly visible makerspaces and teaching labs located at street level showcase the work being done at the school, further connecting the academic and Allston communities. The public spaces at a variety of environments and scales incorporate the structure into the fabric of the neighborhood. The lower floors of the building embrace an extensive landscaped Engineering Yard intended for ceremonial and recreational activities.

Accessible open spaces are featured throughout, including a courtyard and various terraces.

“This innovative and architecturally significant new complex has been constructed on top of existing foundations and basement spaces created for a different project, offering a chance to reduce embodied carbon while addressing a unique set of complexities for the design team in delivering a modern, vibrant space fitting both the client’s and architect’s aspirations,” says Craig Schwitter, P.E., senior partner and chair of the global board for Buro Happold.

The complex houses some of Harvard’s most popular courses.

Buro Happold’s team carried out extensive analyses to assess how best to incorporate the new building over the existing substructure, seeking an efficient, elegant solution that maximizes the reuse and strength of the existing construction. The resulting design’s soaring, sunlight-dappled atrium links the new and existing buildings. The upper levels, linked by cantilevering walkways, bridges and interconnecting staircases, contribute to a sense of openness between labs, collaboration zones and learning spaces. “The structural design incorporates a high degree of flexibility and adaptability that Behnisch Architekten and Harvard University required to future-proof the spaces and allow for changes needed by the university for its dynamic, innovative programs,” says Buro Happold’s Curtis.

“The seven-story building demonstrates advanced techniques in environmental design and energy performance and is paving the way for a new generation of buildings on the Allston campus,” says Stephen Curtis, PE, principal and regional discipline leader for Buro Happold’s structures team. “Our goal has been to integrate Harvard’s needs with Behnisch Architekten’s design vision embracing structural openness, future flexibility, and the unique considerations for resiliency.”

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