The success of a building is not often measured in quantifiable terms. But when Aaron Miscenich, the executive director of the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, embarked on a new building laden with energy-intensive labs on a former brownfield site in a depopulated area of the city's downtown, he needed hard numbers to make the gamble pay off.
Begun in 2007—two years after Hurricane Katrina—the center was conceived as an incubator for biotechnology start-ups. “There was a stigma to the city,” says Mark Ripple, partner at New Orleans–based Eskew+Dumez+Ripple. “It was seen as contaminated goods, both literally and figuratively. Graduates from our universities were moving to other cities. We needed to entice the best and the brightest to stay.”
The architects were given free rein to design a building with just the “wow” factor to do the job. The facade of the mostly glazed four-story structure features sunscreens to provide occupants comfortable levels of daylight. Interior amenities include a flexible 100-person conference center.
Recognizing that 50 percent of research takes place in the lab while the other half occurs in hallways or during a coffee break, the architects created spaces to encourage interaction among tenants, including balconies on every floor, a retail and food-service area, and an outdoor courtyard. As for the labs, they developed a universal module to easily morph into any type of lab, wet or dry, depending on the eventual tenant.
The LEED Gold facility—the first of its kind in Louisiana—takes steps to manage water, a particular challenge in a humid climate prone to flooding. Stormwater is collected and detained in a 60,000-gallon-capacity crushed-stone sub-base beneath the parking lot. Up to 25,000 gallons per week of air-conditioning condensate is funneled into the courtyard's water feature and used for irrigation. “The tenants are young entrepreneurs with a value system they wear on their sleeves,” explains Ripple. “They want sustainable buildings.”
Those young entrepreneurs have flocked to the building, open since 2011. Within six months, the facility exceeded occupancy goals; currently it houses 35 companies. One tenant has grown from five employees in one lab suite to 50 employees in seven suites. “The goal is to nurture start-ups, but the expectation is that they move on,” says Ripple. “We're having active conversations to build a graduation facility.
Size: 65,500 square feet
Project cost: $38 million
Completion Date: August 2011
Client: New Orleans BioInnovation Center
Owner: New Orleans BioInnovation Center
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Architect of record: Eskew+Dumez+Ripple
Associate architect(s): NBBJ
Project Manager: Adams Management
Local General Contractor: Gibbs Construction
Exterior cladding: SlenderWall Precast Building Panels
Curtain wall: Kawneer
Metal panels: Centria
Roofing: Johns Manville