Saint Francis University | Natural Science Center

Loretto, PA

CFB recently completed the new 70,000 SF Natural Science Center which houses the biology, chemistry, physics, environmental engineering, mathematics, and computer science departments. The building includes instructional laboratories, classrooms, student-faculty research laboratories, faculty offices, conference rooms, and other specialized rooms including a Vivarium and Marine Aquatics Lab. The building was estimated to costs $21.9 million but was bid in February of 2012 at $17 million. What good design can do!

Located on the eastern side of the campus mall, the building is organized into a laboratory wing which is parallel to Franciscan Way and an office wing which is slightly canted to be on-axis with St. Francis Drive. In this location, the building achieves a major campus planning initiative by completing the central mall, filling the void that previously existed between the chapel and Schwab Hall. Wedged between these rectilinear forms is the central hub of the building, articulated on the exterior by glass entry pavilions and on the interior by a wood paneled info wall and monumental stair. This hub creates a dynamic and exciting pathway through the building where, along the way, students can capture views into active science labs.

The design is focused on the University’s desire to put “Science on Display”, a critical recommendation of PKAL to expose more students to the sciences. To support this desire, the corridor walls have large interior windows to allow visitors to view the experiments going on inside and large pin-up areas allow students to display their projects. The atrium wall incorporates a marine aquarium and multiple digital display monitors for department announcements, student recognitions and events.

The building’s exterior respects the architectural vocabulary of campus and its 160 year history while evoking the evolution of science education. It is designed to meet LEED Silver Certification and includes sustainable strategies such as rain gardens, solar screens, low flow hoods and hood exhaust/heat recovery along with system monitoring, occupancy sensors and use of locally manufactured materials.

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