Constructed in 1970, the 4,150-sf Genetics Laboratory at the National Zoological Park had become inadequate for researchers’ needs because the existing floor area was inefficient for their multi-step research and documentation processes. Collaborating researchers were also located more than a mile away, and the building was situated within the flood plain of Rock Creek. Periodically, flooding would close the lab, endangering collections and equipment, while disrupting experiments.
In 2008, Smithsonian officials decided to relocate the lab to a vacant animal holding facility nearer to colleagues on Research Hill. The proposed facility was structurally solid, and above the flood plain. However, the building’s interiors and systems were in disrepair, and the available floor area was much less than in the previous facility.
Genetics Laboratory, Smithsonian Institution, National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C.
Glazing channel glass: Pikington, Profilit
Aluminum exterior: EFCO
Vapor diffusing mebrane: Stamisol
Insulated metal panel: Kingspan, Insulated Metal Panels
Paint: Duron, Genesis
Flooring, carpet: Interface FLOR
Ceiling: Armstrong, Ultima
Lighting: Alera Lighting Columbia
Aluminum interior storefront: EFCO
Air handling units: Trane
When the facility was reconstructed, only the retaining walls, foundation concrete columns, beams, and roof slab remained. The new design included exterior enclosures consisting of insulated metal panels, channel glass with translucent insulation, and perforated screens that provide a thermally efficient envelope, while also reducing glare.
“The channel glass and screens are really state-of-the-art details. It will help attract world-class scientists who might have been drawn to other national laboratories,” said BD+C Reconstruction Awards Honorary Chair Walker Johnson, FAIA.
The Building Team, which consisted of Quinn Evans Architects (architect), McMullen & Associates (structural engineer), James Posey Associates (MEP engineer), and K-Lo Construction (general contractor), also faced the task of reducing the interior space to a 2,922-sf area to make the researchers’ workspace more efficient.
“Their difficulty was taking a small building, 3,000 sf, and making it usable, which they did,” said BD+C Reconstruction Awards Judge Martha Bell, FAIA.