Research center puts children first

Silver Award: Texas Children’s Jan And Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute

July 06, 2011

According to the World Health Organization, 300 million children worldwide are afflicted with some form of neurological disease. Texas Children’s Hospital’s Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute is the first facility in the world dedicated exclusively to research on pediatric neurological diseases.

The 400,000-sf facility houses 15 principal multidisciplinary investigators and 130 other scientists under the leadership of pediatric neurologist and world-renowned neurogeneticist Huda Zoghbi, M.D., a pioneer in the study of Rett syndrome, a crippling neurological disease that afflicts one in 10,000 children.  

Starting in 2006, a Building Team led by design firm Perkins+Will engaged Texas Children’s administrators in extensive information gathering and guided researchers from the hospital on visits to peer institutions across the country, to gain insight from other investigators on how best to design a facility for neurological research.

A design charrette brought the Building Team together with staff and researchers, from which grew a strong sense of the need to promote research collaboration by literally bridging the new facility to two adjacent institutions—the MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Baylor College of Medicine—on the vast Texas Medical Center campus. Said juror A. Aubrey Swift, AIA, Design Integration Director, dbHMS, Chicago, “They did their homework on how to work with children.”

Neurological research requires the use of sensitive equipment. To reduce vibration, the team, led by structural engineer Walter P Moore, designed a stiff concrete structure complemented with concrete moment frames, which reduced structural depth and allowed for greater ceiling height and plenum space.

Targeting LEED Silver, the facility has been designed to achieve a 35% energy reduction off the baseline for similar lab buildings through the use of a proprietary air quality monitoring system that automatically samples and analyzes room air quality and adjusts the air change rate accordingly.

Through the use of BIM, mockups, just-in-time design strategies, and a shared savings incentive, the team was able to return $6 million to the owner. Speaking for Texas Children’s Hospital Institute, Pete Dawson, SVP for Facilities Services, said, “The team has done a remarkable job of creating a trendsetting research facility design exceeding the expectations of the hospital and our research stakeholders.”

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