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Washington University School of Medicine opens one of the world’s largest neuroscience research buildings

University Buildings

Washington University School of Medicine opens one of the world’s largest neuroscience research buildings

The $616 million Jeffrey T. Fort Neuroscience Research Building overcame pandemic-era challenges with early planning, prefabrication, and 3D modeling.


By Novid Parsi, Contributing Editor  | May 30, 2024
In St. Louis’ Cortex Innovation District, Washington University School of Medicine recently opened its new Jeffrey T. Fort Neuroscience Research Building. Photo courtesy McCarthy Building Companies
Photo courtesy McCarthy Building Companies

In St. Louis’ Cortex Innovation District, Washington University School of Medicine recently opened its new Jeffrey T. Fort Neuroscience Research Building.

Designed by CannonDesign and Perkins&Will, the 11-story, 609,000-sf facility is one of the largest neuroscience buildings in the world, according to a statement from McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., the project’s construction manager.

Intended to advance research in areas such as Alzheimer’s disease and brain tumors, the $616 million facility currently accommodates 1,000 faculty and staff members, including 95 research teams. In the future, additional space could be constructed to accommodate an additional 350 faculty and staff members, including about 145 research teams.

The project faced labor and supply chain challenges when construction started in spring 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, the project finished on budget and on schedule. McCarthy attributes this success to effective pre-project planning and the use of lean construction techniques.

“Early collaboration played a pivotal role in the success of this project,” Andy Poirot, vice president and project executive, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., said in the statement. “We successfully realized the client’s vision, delivering a cutting-edge research facility poised to enhance lives for generations to come.”

Prefabrication and 3D modeling also helped the team overcome the project constraints. About 90% of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems were prefabricated and tested before installation onsite. Prefab components both improved quality and reduced the number of onsite professionals needed for MEP installation. The building’s façade, with a unitized curtain wall, also was prefabricated.

In addition to the research building, the facility features a parking structure with 1,846 vehicle spaces as well as bicycle racks and electric vehicle charging stations. A 1,000-ft elevated pedestrian connection spans 360 ft, connecting the new building to an existing parking garage and surrounding structures. The project also includes a two-story, 24,775-sf utility plant.

The project is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification.

On the Building Team:
Owner: Washington University School of Medicine 
Architect of record and structural engineer: CannonDesign
Design architect: Perkins&Will 
MEP engineer: Affiliated Engineers, Inc., with CannonDesign also on mechanicals
Construction manager: McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., partnered with Tarlton Corporation and KAI Enterprises

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