Michigan State University, located in East Lansing, Michigan, has taken a former 1940’s power plant and integrated with two laboratory wings to create an Innovation Center for Learning and Technology. The STEM Complex, as it is now called, was designed by Boston architectural firm, Ellenzweig and Integrated Design Solutions (IDS) of Troy Michigan. The 176,000gsf teaching facility was the first building in Michigan to use cross-laminated timber (CLT) as its load-bearing structure. Teaching labs for biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, and engineering are now located under one roof for the first time. The laboratories are designed as flexible, reconfigurable spaces.
In commenting on the design, Ellezweig’s Michael Lauber, FAIA, said, “This flexibility is provided by an innovative overhead service distribution system, installed for the first time in the United States in a teaching lab building. The system’s movable vertical service drops allow easy reconfiguration of all lab tables and perimeter benches. Collaboration and break-out spaces supporting the informal learning that is central to STEM education are directly adjacent to the teaching labs throughout the STEM wings.”
Representatives say the choice of wood rather than steel for the building’s structure is a demonstration of the university’s commitment to innovation and sustainable design. Columns and beams of glue-laminated wood and floor and ceiling panels of cross-laminated timber plank are visible structural elements throughout the building. CLT is a naturally renewable resource and has a dramatically lower carbon footprint than a traditional steel frame. Structural steel fabrication requires 24 times the energy and carbon output per ton.
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STEM Complex Becomes State’s First Mass Timber Building