The Judges in the 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards Competition have selected the Southern Connecticut State University’s Academic Science and Laboratory Building for an ACEC New York Gold Award in the category of Structural Systems.

Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) in New Haven, CT, has greatly expanded their science programming with the opening of the 103,608 square foot Academic Science and Laboratory Building in August 2015. The new L-shaped building is sited adjacent to the existing Jennings and Morrill Halls creating a science quad on campus.

The four-story building is constructed with cast-in-place concrete slab on grade and spread footings in the cellar. The first floor is constructed with CIP Concrete one-way slabs and beams. Composite structural steel beams with metal deck and concrete slabs were used at the upper levels. Floors are 16’ -0” floor to floor at the cellar and attic levels and 15’-4” at the ground, 2nd and 3rd floors.

The building’s two wings are joined at each floor by an oval connector, or “knuckle,” that is windowed along each side with faceted glazing. The knuckle section has architecturally exposed structural steel at several locations. Exposed cruciform column bases protrude from hemispherical pipe caps. The northern glazed wall features custom stainless steel elements that echo the shape and function of a whale’s spine. This spine serves as a lateral curtain wall support for the two-story atrium. It works through arch and catenary action, and uses recessed pin nuts at the joints and Tripyramid rods and clevises. The third floor conference room is slung from the roof through hanger rods and cradle beams.

The design and construction of custom steel elements prove that specialty details can be included on a reasonable budget. This new facility supports SCSU’s commitment to expand science programs and their capacity to serve a teaching and research leader in the STEM disciplines. Embracing innovative sustainable design, this building houses teaching and research training laboratories for the Center for Nanotechnology, Physics, Optics, Materials Sciences, Astronomy, the Center for Coastal and Marine Studies, Environmental Studies, Earth Sciences, Chemistry, and Biology.

“[SCSU] now has the spaces that will propel us into the future.” – SCSU Dean

The knuckle connector is just one location where built-in displays of optical phenomena, the natural environment, nanotechnology, geological formations, biological specimens, and astronomical observations are interspersed among sun-filled lounges, all to advance interaction among the different scientific disciplines.

The structure resists lateral loads using a combination of braced frames and shear walls. The building site is considered seismic site class D, so uncharacteristically for New England, the seismic base shear controlled the lateral design for some loading directions. The structural design accounted for common environmental loads: gravity, wind, earthquakes and snow. The design also incorporates intense criteria to mitigate vibration effects on microscopes, lasers and other lab equipment which might be caused by footfalls – people walking.

“Nothing inspires and instructs more profoundly than great art and architecture and our new Academic Science and Laboratory Building is, at once, both — it is powerful state-of-the-art teaching and learning environment, as well as a beautifully imagined/designed structural centerpiece. It is an inspiration to our students and faculty each and every day.” – SCSU Dean