The Biorenewables Complex at Iowa State University reflects the trend toward interdisciplinary science. A multi-phased project, the complex houses 50 research and teaching laboratories designed to investigate biorenewable resources: plants and crops that can be used to produce fuels, chemicals, materials, and energy. The complex includes approximately 220,000 gross square feet of laboratories, classrooms, offices, and a central atrium.
The University opted to construct the complex in two distinct phases. Phase I saw the design and construction of the Biorenewable Research Laboratory (BRL). Phase two involved the construction of the Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering (ABE) building.
Completed in 2010, the new BRL facility complements and replaces labs and offices previously located across campus. The building was designed to create an environment that promotes interdisciplinary, systems-level research and collaboration including laboratory, meeting and teaching space for both graduate and undergraduate students. Instead of solid walls separating the lab, offices, and conference rooms, glass walls enable people to see into and out of the labs. The conference rooms feature large windows that bring in natural light and provide sweeping views of the campus.
The interior spaces were designed to maximize flexibility and “future-proof” the facility. In the labs, utilities plug into the benches from the ceiling. They unplug easily when a set of benches must move to another area. The benches move on rolling disks or wheels. Offices and cubicles are often adjacent to the benches where experiments are conducted. Additional spaces provide whiteboards, high-definition monitors, computers, tables, and comfortable seating to support meetings, small informal gatherings and informal learning opportunities.
Phase II added two buildings to the site and provided a new home for Iowa State’s top-ranked Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE). The structures include state-of-the-art flexible, technology-ready classrooms, educational and research laboratories, student services, and space for faculty and graduate student offices. The two ABE structures are connected by an 8,000-square-foot atrium to the Phase I Biorenewables Research Laboratory.