Harvard University continues to grow and change constantly—not only in its groundbreaking research but also in its physical campus. The new Science and Engineering Complex (SEC), located across the Charles River from the school’s main campus in Cambridge, is the first and perhaps most ambitious project on Harvard’s new Allston campus. Designed by the innovative minds at Behnisch Architekten, this 497,000 SF facility will be the centralized home to multidisciplinary research and educational endeavors. Acentech was selected to provide acoustics, 3DListening®, noise control, and vibration control consulting for this project.

Besides its significant size, the SEC is an impressive building in the design of its interior layout, mechanical systems, and research spaces. A central atrium connects each of the five stories of the SEC. This space will serve as a social, dining, and even informal lecture space for the new campus. To serve as a successful community hub, this centralized area needed to have a significant amount of reverberation control. After all, how could a visiting speaker connect with audiences if no one can decipher what is being said? To ensure that this atrium could serve the Harvard community properly, Acentech developed a 3DListening model to allow designers and institutional decision makers to hear how different acoustical treatments would impact the sound in the space. This model also helped faculty and staff to experience elements of their new workplace before it is even built. With the information provided by 3DListening, Harvard and Behnisch Architekten gained an ability to communicate the expected acoustical conditions to the users and to design for better acoustics in the SEC including the laboratories, classrooms, and faculty offices.

The SEC will be a home to some of the most ambitious, innovative research in science and engineering, as well as being a campus gathering space. Acentech’s vibration consultants provided guidance regarding the control of vibration throughout the building. By considering the impacts of vibrations produced by people and equipment, structural materials, and lab space planning, Acentech ensured that extremely sensitive research could be carried out in the SEC. Acentech addressed vibrations at the site before and during construction activities and designed isolation systems capable of protecting the most sensitive planned research equipment. Control of noise and vibration from the building’s mechanical systems was also a key aspect to the success of this project, since necessary air circulation and climate control is accompanied by severe noise and vibration concerns in facilities of this size and purpose. Thoughtful design of mechanical systems will allow faculty, students, and researchers to work in comfort with limited distractions.

All renderings courtesy of Behnisch Architekten.

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