Arup’s multidisciplinary design for Princeton University’s new Frick Laboratory had to meet major challenges, balancing the rigorous vibration and cleanliness requirements with the University’s sustainability plan. At 24,620m2 the $280M laboratory is the second largest building on the campus, designed to accommodate up to 360 researchers in two fours-storey wings separated by a glass-roofed atrium running the full length of the building.
Apart from the usual ultimate and serviceability design requirements, vibration was a major design criterion in the research laboratories, where experiments are conducted using microscopes, lasers, and other sensitive equipment. Each unique laboratory was categorised according to its tolerance to vibration, which helped to define the best locations for sensitive and ultra-sensitive equipment. Some, such as the electron microscopes and NMR imaging devices, require vibration levels many orders of magnitude below the threshold of human perception. These were segregated to the basement, where extremely low floor vibration levels could be provided.
How Oasys proved invaluable
The team developed a series of vibration models in Oasys GSA to calculate floor movements under various footfall inputs, leading to a cost-optimised design by identifying areas of acceptably higher and low vibration levels that met the University’s criteria for the laboratories. The areas near columns are stiffer and can be used to support more sensitive equipment, while corridors and cantilevered areas were designated for non-critical use, where these limits could be exceeded. The increased mass of the floor sections in the middle bays of the building evened out the stiffness throughout the floor framing and created an efficient structural system for the layout and performance criteria.
Some columns were placed in-board of the façade by 3.2 m, with the edge zones of the floor plates devoted to non-instrumented space. Vibration up to 16,000 μin/sec is permitted in these cantilevered “ghost” corridors along the building’s perimeter, compared with 2000 μin/sec maximum within the laboratory spaces. These half-bays create the appearance of a slender colonnade, while the façade is simultaneously used to reduce vibration.
Construction of the new Frick Chemistry Laboratory began in autumn 2007. Building occupation commenced in selected areas in July 2010 prior to its formal opening in April 2011.
One of the recently recruited researchers proclaimed that it is “the best building for academic chemistry in the country, if not the world”. As department Chair David MacMillan puts it, the building “is a dream come true”
“The best building for academic chemistry in the country, if not the world”. “It's a dream come true”