The 10-story, 485,000-sq-ft BioScience Research Collaborative building at Rice University was constructed on 2.9 acres at Main Street and University Boulevard in Houston, immediately adjacent to the Texas Medical Center complex.

Photo: Scott Frances Of August Image, New York, NY

The building currently offers eight floors that include research labs, classrooms, a 280-seat auditorium, 100-seat seminar room, 10,000 sq ft of retail space and a 338,700-sq-ft, three-level underground parking structure.

Two floors of lab shell space allow for future expansion. The base building platform was also designed to support a future second research tower, potentially adding up to 150,000 sq ft to the research environment.

The project faced a number of obstacles, none of which was too complex for the project team to overcome. One such issue involved city codes, which the owner, contractor and city were able to change in order to allow the project to proceed.

Before construction started, the team worked to modify regulations that would not allow laboratories, which use volatile chemicals, in high-rise towers. This effort involved extensive coordination between Linbeck, the GC/CM, and city hall, the city planning department, life-safety consultants and the city fire marshal.

In addition, the plans required an H-1 classification to accommodate a standby generator with a fuel tank that the city prevented from placing within a certain range of adjacent residential areas – and certainly not in a high-rise building. After many conversations and evaluations, the city agreed to allow the building to move forward, although approval came in the middle of construction after the mechanical and electrical systems had been installed and major ductwork roughed in.

Crews were required to add in a three-hour firewall. They modified an existing rated wall and rerouted a number of 4- to 6-ft ducts and other major utility lines and conduit.

Key Players

Submitted by: Linbeck Group LLC
Developer/owner: William Marsh Rice University, Houston
General contractor/construction manager: Linbeck Group LLC, Houston
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, San Francisco
Civil engineer: Walter P Moore, Houston
Structural engineer: Haynes Whaley Associates, Houston
MEP engineer: Bard, Rao + Athanas Consulting Engineers Inc., Watertown, Mass.