High-Tech Tenants & Building Principles Unite in Collaborative Innovation Center

In 2002, Carnegie Mellon University approached Davis Gardner Gannon Pope Architecture with their vision of a structure where research-oriented private organizations could collaborate with other experts, attracting both local and national specialists to Pittsburgh and, in turn, growing knowledge workers.  Just several years later, CMU’s idea is becoming a reality.  In June of last year, Apple announced a merger of Intel microprocessors with their own Macintosh computers and joined Intel on the top floor of the university’s new Collaborative Innovation Center.  Other cutting-edge tenants include Carnegie Mellon Cylab, a major center for cyberspace-related research; the federally funded Software Engineering Institute’s Network Systems Survivability program; and the Korean Information Security Agency.

Not only is CMU’s Collaborative Innovation Center a state-of-the-art dry lab research facility, but it is also the solitary LEED-CS (Core & Shell) building in Pennsylvania and one of just six in the entire United States.  The university’s dedication to environmentally-friendly innovation is exemplified through one of the most energy-efficient, cost-effective, healthy, flexible and adaptable work environments in existence.  These benefits did not come about easily, however, according to DGGP’s Gary Gardner, LEED AP.  “Of course there were obstacles to overcome during design and construction,” he said, “including restrictive contextual requirements, structural constraints and the building’s large footprint.”  Early LEED point goals and an integrated design concept helped the team troubleshoot issues that arose.

As a progressive lab, much of the environmental technology used in the building is ultra-modern. The structure’s design features a modular raised-floor system, allowing for double the normal amount of fresh air and individual airflow/climate controls within each work area.  At a height of 18 inches above the structural floor, this system enables air diffusers and power and utility lines to be easily reconfigured to meet space needs.  Large windows wrap around the building’s exterior, maximizing daylight, while an interior indirect lighting system reduces glare.  Exterior wall columns and floor slabs extend beyond the windows to serve as a creative shading device that minimizes the sun’s negative effects.  One of only five in the country, an energy-efficient terra cotta system was used as a rain screen in the exterior construction.  This “skin” delivers a high R-value with three inches of insulation, a waterproof membrane, steel studs, and dry walls behind the terra cotta tiles that require no mortar.

A multi-level parking garage for more than 220 vehicles sits below the four-story office building.  It includes a recharging station for electric vehicles and locker rooms for employees to shower and change into work attire if they commute by bicycle.  “Employees have taken to the new environment well, recycling and making use of the bicycle racks,” observed the Center’s facility manager, George Mettrick.  “There was little resistance to changes in work habits.  Also, the daily operations and maintenance of the building are no more difficult than these functions would be in a similar non-green building.”

The coalescing of the features noted above, along with many others, brings a LEED-CS Gold rating to a new and unique setting.

See more details on the Collaborative Innovation Center here.  

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