Collaborative Research Center

Linbeck Group builds LEED showpiece that will bring together the best minds of Rice University and the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

August 04, 2008 |

Linbeck Group LLC is less than a year away from completion of Rice University's Collaborative Research Center (CRC) in Houston. This 477,000-gross-square-foot building, the largest academic building ever to be built on the Rice campus, will be Linbeck's first LEED-certified project in Houston.

The estimated $200-million to $300-million project, which is being built on a "hyper-track" schedule, is due for completion in the first quarter of 2009.

The Structure

Architect's rendering of the Rice University Collaborative Research Center courtesy of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

Below grade will be three levels of underground parking for 770 vehicles. A 10-story lab tower with mechanical penthouse will rise on the south side. Eight floors of efficient research laboratories in this tower will sit atop a base platform that will include a vivarium, a 280-seat auditorium, a 100-seat seminar room, classrooms, 10,000 square feet of retail space for a restaurant and shops, and other common space. Two stories of shell space will facilitate expansion as the project grows.

The north side, which will be only three stories high, will be built structurally stronger with larger grade rebar in the columns so that a second research tower with up to 150,000 gross square feet can be added later.

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP (SOM) is the executive and design architect with a team led by principal design architect Craig Hartmann. FKP Architects is the local associate architect.

Distinctive Façade

"It is the staggered arrangement of masonry, glass, aluminum and metal cladding that give the masonry part of the building its unique look," said Bill Morris of Arrowall Co., the subcontractor installing the glass wall system on the project. "The genius behind the design is that there are only three sizes of windows in the building and there is a definite pattern, but they are arranged to look totally random."

The concept is similar in the hub, which is actually an ellipse, according to Morris. The tower is sheathed with six sizes of windows — three different sizes each in the small radius and large radius.

"The repetition of the pattern brings it all together," Morris added. "Once you understand the pattern, it's easier to build, but it's still difficult in the layout because every floor is different."

Hyper-track Construction

Although the CRC will be the largest academic building in Rice's history, construction is on a "hyper-track" schedule, according to project manager Kathy Jones. "In addition to allowing us to bring the building into operation more quickly so that the important research can get under way, this approach will save on construction costs by shortening the overall duration of the project."

AYG Construction began the excavation dirtwork in December 2006, ultimately excavating almost 165,000 cubic yards of material from the project's footprint.

"Because of the tight worksite and traffic, we were not able to shut down Main Steet, Dryden or University streets, so we used this area [in the excavation] for our staging point for concrete trucks to pour that half of the structure," explained Jennifer Oliverio, a project manager with Linbeck. "We worked with the structural engineer to beef up the structure near the tower crane so that we could park pump trucks there and fill in the rest of the structure."

CSC Rebar was subcontracted to tie the rebar that was furnished by Katy Steel Co. Xavier Structures Corporation prepared the concrete formwork. Southern Star is supplying the concrete. Linbeck is pouring the vertical concrete for the columns, and T.A.S. Commercial Concrete Construction is placing the flatwork.

The goal of the research center is to team up researchers and physicians from the Texas Medical Center (TMC) with Rice University scientists and engineers. This new center physically closes the gap between the two campuses. TMC institutions participating in the CRC include Baylor College of Medicine, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, The Methodist Hospital Research Institute, Texas Children's Hospital, and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

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