Modern design of biotech incubator employs SlenderWall lightweight precast panels to create a sophisticated design statement and lasting resiliency.
When designing the new BioInnovation Center technology incubator several critical factors surfaced. “We practice unabashedly modern architecture in a city known for its historicism and architectural scenography,” says Mark Ripple, AIA, LEED AP, principal of Eskew+Dumez+Ripple. “So for us, the challenge is simple but the resolution is hard: Do buildings that are both of their place and their time.” That means using time-tested means for dealing with the hot, humid climate with powerful storms and wind-driven rains, while also creating a building that reflects the social nature of the city. The architects wanted something sustainable and substantial but light weight, and they did not want to use EIFS, an exterior insulation and finish system. The architects and owner were also looking for LEED Certification. Then on the jobsite, SlenderWall was ideal for the tight project site on the main transportation artery of Canal Street in the city’s downtown core, which limited crane access.
The choice of SlenderWall was an easy one for the architects, says Mark Ripple, AIA, LEED AP, principal of Eskew+Dumez+Ripple. “For the cladding we wanted a durable, hurricane-proof and opaque system, and SlenderWall would allow a fine architectural surface and yet be lighter in weight than traditional, heavier precast. The system has a lower carbon footprint than alternatives, and the structures supporting it can be lighter, which is important in our soft soils of Southern Louisiana.” “In ways big and small, the hybrid precast and light-gauge steel stud cladding system befitted the architectural sensibilities of EDR as well as the needs of their client,” adds J. Matt DeVoss, whose company Jackson Precast Inc., produced the SlenderWall panels. “It provides a high-end, architectural finish that can’t be as easily achieved and controlled with many other materials, such as GFRC,” says DeVoss. He added that SlenderWall also stands up to cost analysis for many budgets and project schedules.
The result is a memorable, graceful building that complements the city while pointing to a brave, new future: The 65,500 sq. ft. New Orleans BioInnovation Center, designed by local firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, in collaboration with Seattle’s NBBJ. Built on a revived brownfield site with a design that garnered a LEED Gold certification, this new facility has attracted attention for its unique incubator model, strong architectural presence and people-friendly features. Atlanta-based MEP engineers Newcomb & Boyd and an enclosure consultant used envelope modeling to study solar heat gain and bulk moisture drive into the building. The studies showed excellent performance for the SlenderWall portions, and that even with 68% glazing, the main entry façade was only the equivalent of 18% glass, thanks to the incorporated sunscreen and highly insulated precast. The precast sections were delivered with 3-1/2 inches of closed-cell foam insulation (R-21) that also acts as a vapor barrier, contributing to the air- and water-tightness of the structure. At only 30 lbs. per sq. ft.— a smaller crane could be used. The lighter panels took less time and space to hoist, too, all saving the State of Louisiana on costs for related structural framing, moment connections and foundations. The panels also met local hurricane code, which references the Miami/Dade standards for wind and impact resistance.