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  • Harvard University
  • Allston, MA
  • Shepley Bulfinch, Triumph Modular
  • 15,000 sq ft.
  • Educational
  • 30 weeks
  • Modular Building Institute, Awards of Distinction: Best of Show, Permanent Modular
    First Place, Permanent Modular – Education

The context

The Harvard Pagliuca Life Lab is located at the Harvard University Campus in Allston, MA. It is the newest member of the Harvard Innovation Labs ecosystem and its mission is to foster innovation and collaboration between students, faculty, alumni, investors and industry in the pursuit of life-sciences research project ventures, by providing the teams crucial resources needed with a highly sophisticated wet lab environment. The project success was a result of a collaborative effort of all stakeholders. Harvard University worked together with Architect, Shepley Bulfinch to create the innovative design and NRB was selected to provide the structural design for the modular version of the lab and to build it in the New Holland PA plant in a controlled environment. The university also partnered with Triumph Modular in Littleton, MA to assist with the preconstruction strategies, as well as Shawmut Design and Construction to develop the site and complete the final installation with commissioning.

The design

The lab is a 15,000 sq. ft. two-storey building, with the upper floor engineered to cantilever out over the lower floor by 14 feet. All steel and concrete, non-combustible construction, the lab was built with all 34 modules joined together vertically and horizontally at the NRB plant to ensure all the systems, features and both interior and exterior finishes were coordinated and aligned for precision fit. This allowed the University and the architect to walk through their lab facility during fabrication to witness inspections and testing as required. The wet lab incorporates highly sophisticated systems and equipment for advanced life sciences research. The first floor is designed for flexibility and connectivity in an open concept with a central ornamental staircase and floor to ceiling glass, a lounge, work tables, shared conference rooms and a kitchen – all to encourage cross-team collaboration. The second floor houses the complex lab spaces for the teams, including 36 wet lab benches, tissue culture rooms, fume hoods, a chemical waste system and a walk-in environmental cold room.

The benefits

Choosing to build the Life Lab off site in a controlled environment leveraged the speed, cost effectiveness and quality the university was looking for, shortening the schedule significantly to only 7 months from design to completion, and reducing the on-site activity, construction hazards and disruption to the surrounding Allston community and the Campus itself.  While NRB was constructing the lab at their plant, Shawmut was simultaneously developing the site and foundations.  Using NRB’s “build together” process for this project allowed the building to be completed to approximately 85% including all electrical, mechanical, fire suppression systems as well as interior finishes, and even most of the intricate exterior cladding system leaving back only the concrete or aluminum panels at the modular split lines for completion on site.  A formal dedication ceremony was held on November 3, 2016.


Modular Building Institute, Awards of Distinction: Best of Show, Permanent Modular
First Place, Permanent Modular – Education

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