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Latest addition to Fermilab campus about to begin construction

Lots of natural light and hybrid labs will distinguish the new Integrated Engineering Research Center.

September 14, 2020 |

The 85,000-sf Integrated Engineering Research Center is the most important new structure on the campus of Fermilab since Wilson Hall opened almost 50 years ago. Images: Perkins and Will

This fall, construction is scheduled to begin on the Integrated Engineering Research Center (IERC), an $86 million, 85,000-sf infrastructure project on the 6,800-acre campus of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., the nation’s premier particle physics lab.  

IERC has been in the works since the summer of 2015, and at one time was conceived as a 100,000-sf building that dedicated two of its three floors to office space. That concept changed after a team comprised of Arup and Perkins and Will won a design competition that Fermilab conducted in 2017.

That team’s concept scales back the building to two floors, and includes more lab space. What emerges are “hybrid labs” that, essentially, remove the walls separating labs and offices for the purposes of colocation and collaboration. There are two hybrid zones on the ground floor, in one big open area “that just about anyone can walk through,” explains Aaron Tabares, a Senior Electrical Engineer for Arup’s offices in Chicago, which provides the SE, MEP, F/LS, AV, and IT services to the IERC project.

(He notes, parenthetically, that Arup’s acoustics expertise came in handy to help design these hybrids with quiet features for researchers when needed.)

Brian Rubik, SE, Fermilab’s project manager, adds that Perkins and Will, the designer and AOR on the IERC project, championed bringing more natural light into the new building, whose sloped roof includes clerestories that angle toward the campus’s iconic Wilson Hall.

Rubik notes that IERC’s mechanicals were moved to the center of its upper floor so that more offices could be positioned on the interior perimeter to receive more light. Fermilab calls the hallways and windows around the perimeter of the ground floor “science on display,” says Rubik.

“A lot of the building’s systems are discrete,” adds Tabares. “The form of the building considered just about every angle for the occupants.”

Open, collaborative spaces, designed modularly for maximum flexibility, are IERC's hallmarks.


Keeping the mechanicals off the roof will present a more aesthetically pleasing appearance for a building that, when it’s completed in October 2022, will be a centerpiece of Fermilab’s campus. Prominently featured in IERC’s design is its glassed-in Argon Cube, located at the northeast corner of the building. The Argon Cube is an R&D space related to Liquid Argon (Lar) in support of the DUNE (Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment) and the LBNF (Long Neutrino Baseline Facility). It houses the Liquid Argon cryostat vessel, where Fermilab will test the detector components and advance study related to using Lar cryogenics in filtration and air contamination recovery.


This project presented an array of physical challenges to the Building Team, which includes Mortenson (GC/CM) and Terra Engineering (CE).

“Terra’s role was especially important, as there were a lot of utilities running into this building,” says Thomas Mozina, Design Principal for Perkins and Will, whom BD+C interviewed last week with Adana Johns, AIA, LEED AP, the firm’s Associate Principal and Science + Technology Practice Leader.

Mortenson has been prepping IERC’s site, adjacent to Wilson Hall, since July 2019. The location is constrained by the formal “horseshoe” entry drive and a raised (8- to 10-ft-tall) berm that had been a radiation shield for a 1.25-mile-diameter Tevatron beam line, the main ring around the particle accelerator, which was deactivated in 2011. Tabares says that excavation was dictated by another, active particle accelerator beam. An electrical artery outside of the building also needed to be relocated.

“We’re kind of jammed into there,” says Rubik about the Center’s location.

The Argon Cube, enclosed in glass for exterior visibility, is an example of IERC's “science on display.”



Inside the IERC, Perkins and Will designed office and lab space “with a certain sense of modularity,” says Mozina, in order to provide Fermilab with the flexibility it needs as research evolves. (He describes the design as a kit of parts, and Johns doesn’t think the client will require many more changes in that design, “having already gone through so many iterations in the planning process.”)

Wilson Hall, which dates back to 1971, has 800 employees. It will connect with IERC at the former’s ground floor and 16-atory atrium level via a 20-ft-long enclosed runway.


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