Suffolk Completes Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex at Northeastern

Boston – Northeastern University ushered in a new era of transformative research with the official opening of its Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC), an architectural marvel designed to spur innovation, collaboration, and scientific breakthroughs for years to come. The state-of-the-art facility was designed by architectural firm Payette, and construction was managed by Suffolk.

Atrium with spiral staircase / courtesy of Warren Jagger

The six-story building features 230,000sf of research and educational space for the university to expand its capacity to engage in path-breaking interdisciplinary research. This research cuts across a range of fields, from community resilience, to cybersecurity, to coastal sustainability, to drug delivery.

Exterior of ISEC at Northeastern

At the core of the ISEC is a glass-filled atrium, which facilitates connections between researchers. Upper floors are comprised of two wings: an office wing and an adaptable laboratory wing, connected by two sky bridges. Overall features include:

  • Offices and lab space to accommodate 700 faculty members and graduate students.
  • A central spiral staircase and conference spaces, lounges, and kitchenettes on five floors to encourage meetings and impromptu exchanges.
  • Wet and computational laboratories are colocated and modular — fully adaptable to each research team’s needs.
  • Glass walls surrounding a six-story, sky-lit atrium put science on display — and foster a culture of transparency.
  • The ground floor doubles as a conference center, with a 280-seat auditorium, staging area, café, and room for 200 seated dinner guests.
  • More than 13,000sf of essential core facilities and tools at basement level serve the university community: laboratories for genomics, metabolomics, and proteomics; functional nuclear magnetic resonance imaging; and electron microscopes.

Designed with energy efficiency in mind, the ISEC reflects Northeastern’s commitment to sustainability in every way. The building’s central atrium transfers air from offices to labs for more efficient ventilation and a footprint that optimizes natural light. This cascade approach to recirculate air will significantly reduce energy costs and consumption. A curved southwest-facing curtain wall of vertical, sun-shading aluminum fins maximizes daylight penetration while minimizing heat gain. The building features energy-efficient lighting and plumbing fixtures, and a 40% reduction in water use over baseline standards is anticipated. The building is on track to achieve LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Suffolk utilized its build smart approach to manage construction of the ISEC project, such as implementing Lean construction principles and virtual design and construction (VDC) to enhance teamwide collaboration, increase efficiencies, and minimize waste. Construction of the ISEC, which took approximately three years, was completed on time and on budget despite a number of logistical challenges, including its location next to active railroad tracks used by three different transportation agencies, as well as a parking structure. This was made possible by the close cooperation and teamwork among Suffolk, its trade partners, Payette, and Northeastern University, which was key to the successful completion of this incredible facility.