Initially planning it as two separate buildings, the design team decided to combine the projects into a single, L-shaped building with a massive precast concrete cantilever at the main entrance that hovers over a plaza and garden. This project is a great example of the versatility of precast concrete, while also demonstrating the high performance attributes that it brings to a project. Overall, all of this was contemplated, designed, and engineered to improve the performance of the most vibration-sensitive, acoustic-sensitive, and thermally-sensitive equipment in this research complex.
In choosing precast concrete, the designers were able to meet a tight budget and schedule with a sustainable material that can mimic the brick architectural design used throughout the Penn State campus. This brick design allowed for a level of quality control and review that was essential to the overall success of the facade.
The biggest challenge on the project was constructing the 150-ft (46 m) cantilever – and again, precast concrete helped solve this problem by allowing for re-adjustment and re-leveling as the structure deflected into its final position. The cantilever theme is repeated at the ends of the building, where the thin brick veneer panels are mounted to steel frames.
The precast concrete cantilever also allows dampening of the building structure for lower-level laboratory spaces, including quiet labs, where sensitive equipment must be protected from vibration, noise, temperature, and humidity. The mass of the precast concrete used in the cantilever design helps to ensure that no vibration from footfall or machinery, is transmitted down to the lower-level laboratories.