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July 28, 2008

LEED-registered Life Sciences Building is Florida State University’s Newest Addition to Science Quad

Site limitations and strict architectural guidelines drove building design

Department of Biological Science teaching and research laboratories feature design adaptable for reconfiguration and conversion

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., July 28, 2008 – Florida State University’s new science quadrangle, home to the University’s College of Medicine and Department of Psychology, continues to take shape with the completion of The James E. “Jim” King Jr. Building, a LEED-registered Life Sciences building completed in June for the Department of Biological Science. In the middle of the quad, and also new, is a green roof landscaped plaza spanning a cage wash facility shared by all three buildings via tunnels.

The $55 million, 180,000-square-foot Life Sciences building, 10,000-square-foot cage wash facility and plaza were designed by the team of Tallahassee-based Elliott Marshall Innes, P.A. (EMI) and the Atlanta office of Lord, Aeck & Sargent. EMI, as architect of record, designed the building and cage wash exteriors, the common areas – including a two-story lobby and 150- seat auditorium – and the walking plaza. Lord, Aeck & Sargent programmed and designed the building’s teaching and research laboratories, classrooms, support spaces, BSL-3 suite, laboratory animal resources, greenhouse complex and the underground cage wash facility.

Architects challenged by a limited site and strict architectural guidelines

One of the architects’ biggest challenges was to find a way to fit the new Life Sciences building on the site, which was limited in size by a street to the west, the College of Medicine to the north, the Department of Psychology to the east and a large parking garage to the south. Along with the site limitations were guidelines that required the building design to fit in with the Jacobean Revival architectural style of FSU’s campus.
“The site and strict architectural design requirements drove the design of the building,” said Brad Innes, design principal at EMI. “Typically, science buildings have wide floorplates, but Jacobean buildings have steeply pitched roofs, which necessitate fairly narrow floorplates. We addressed this by designing a combination of low-sloped and steeply pitched roof areas, by integrating the biology department’s greenhouse complex onto the roof, and by sharing the College of Medicine’s existing loading dock.”

In addition, Innes said, “It was important that the researchers have a light, airy and transparent environment with open relationships to the outside, so to address this we broke the building into two, five-story wings joined by a two-story central lobby, and we used lots of glass with the required red brick and pre-cast stone.

“We felt that the building should be a confident reinterpretation of the traditional buildings on campus. Familiar building elements representative of an earlier era were combined in a contemporary and novel manner. A conscious effort was made to stitch the imagery of the building back to what the University wanted without it becoming a literal copy of the early 20th century buildings on campus,” Innes stated.

“Architecturally, it is a well executed building. The two-story lobby and the intimate, exterior courtyard are two significant features of the building,” said Daryl Ellison, FSU associate director of facilities planning and construction. “The greenhouses on the roof look like beacons of light at night. And this building ties the site together with the adjacent buildings, allowing people to walk from the adjacent parking garage, across the landscaped plaza and over the cage wash roof to all the buildings in the science quad, as well as other buildings north of these.”

Adaptable labs

The building houses more than half of the Department of Biological Science, specifically the divisions of: Cell and Molecular Biology; Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Science; and Physiology and Neuroscience.
“We created an adaptable laboratory design, with the teaching and research labs stacked so that the former can be converted to research labs if needed in the future,” said Warren Williams, a Lord, Aeck & Sargent Science Studio principal who served as project manager. “We also designed the lab modules to allow for easy reconfiguration of fume hoods, laboratory utilities, and power to the benches.
“Further, we located core support space in the center of each floor so that the labs are located around the outside, providing researchers with plenty of light from large windows.”

The building’s south wing houses teaching labs and three computer classrooms on the first and second floors, while the north wing’s first floor houses a field research area and an animal lab that leads to the cage wash facility through an underground tunnel. The north wing’s second floor includes a neuroscience lab and shared analytical core facility on the second floor. Faculty offices are located on the second through fourth floors of both wings.

On the third and fourth floors of both wings are the Cell and Molecular Biology Division laboratories and the Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Science labs, respectively. Shared environmental chambers are spread throughout both floors, and a BSL-3 lab is located on the south wing’s third floor. Williams said that it is unusual to find a BSL-3 lab in an undergraduate teaching facility, and he noted that the Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Science labs were specifically located on the fourth floors for their proximity to the four greenhouses joined by a headhouse on the fifth story rooftop. The greenhouse complex is used for plant genetic research.

A special terrazzo floor

Among the common areas’ most notable features is the two-story lobby’s terrazzo floor, which features images of elements of biology – everything from amoebas and animal and plant cells, to starfish and katydid. The artwork, titled “Life Tapestries,” was designed by Denver artist Carolyn Braaksma, well known for her large-scale public artwork, in collaboration wth artist Brad Kaspari. “Life Tapestries” was commissioned by the State of Florida’s Art in State Buildings Program, which purchases or commissions appropriate public artwork to enhance the state’s built environment.

Approximately 4,800 square feet in size, Braaksma’s design is “truly representative of everything that concerns biological science,” FSU’s Ellison said.

Late to LEED

FSU officials decided when construction was well more than half completed that they wanted the building to be LEED certified.

“Because many mainstream sustainable features had already been included in the building’s design, it was still possible to gain enough points to apply for LEED certification by making a few strategic modifications,” Williams said. He noted that these included the addition of bike racks and preferred parking spaces for low-emitting vehicles; modification of the landscape design to include lower water demanding species; designation of open space adjacent to the project; the substitution of dual-flush flush valves and low-flow shower heads, which hadn’t yet been purchased; an increase in the commissioning agent’s scope; and implementation by the construction manager of an indoor air quality management plan and two- week flush out prior to building occupancy.

The Project Team

The project team for FSU Life Sciences building comprised:

  • Elliott Marshall Innes, P.A. (Tallahassee, Fla.), architect of record
  • Lord, Aeck & Sargent, Inc. (Atlanta), laboratory programming and laboratory design consulting architect 
  • Tilden, Lobnitz, Cooper, Tallahassee (MEP, electrical and structural engineer)
  • Moore Bass Consulting, Tallahassee (civil engineer and landscape architect)
  • LLT Building Corporation, Tallahassee, (construction manager)
  • Newcomb & Boyd, Atlanta (commissioning agent)

About Lord, Aeck & Sargent

Lord, Aeck & Sargent is an award-winning architectural firm serving clients in scientific, academic, historic preservation, arts and cultural, and multi-family housing and mixed-use markets. The firm’s core values are responsive design, technological expertise and exceptional service. In 2003, The Construction Specifications Institute awarded Lord, Aeck & Sargent its Environmental Sensitivity Award for showing exceptional devotion to the use of sustainable and environmentally friendly materials, and for striving to create functional, sensitive and healthy buildings for clients. In 2007, Lord, Aeck & Sargent was one of the first architecture firms to adopt The 2030 Challenge, an initiative whose ultimate goal is the design of carbon-neutral buildings, or buildings that use no fossil-fuel greenhouse gas-emitting energy to operate, by the year 2030. Lord, Aeck & Sargent has offices in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta; and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. For more information, visit the firm at

About Elliott Marshall Innes

Founded in 1972, in Tallahassee, Florida, Elliott Marshall Innes, P.A. (EMI) is an award-winning architectural firm providing architectural, interior design and planning services to the southeastern region of the United States. The firm’s dedicated staff provides services to many community colleges and universities, K-12 school boards, military bases, medical facilities, as well as a broad array of private clients. Among EMI’s numerous awards are several AIA chapter design awards for buildings on the Florida State University campus, including the Psychology Center, the Williams Building, the Student Life Building and the Dodd Hall Auditorium. For more information, visit the firm at