New Model for a Sustainable Laboratory
An innovative high tech, energy efficient, economical building

1        Parking Lot & Shuttle Bus
2        Canal (Future)
3        Fairy Fort Archaelogical Site
4        Biosciences Research Building

5        Future Wings for BRB
6        Campus Walk
7        Future Buildings

8        Shuttle Bus Stop
9        Loading Dock
10      Legend

With a wood lattice set within the insulated glazing units, the OKAWOOD curtainwall echoes the building’s layered planning concept while shielding the thermal corridor from the harsh Irish glare.

1    Tempered Glass Membrane
2    Radiant Heating only 9% of Year

3    Automated Operable Windows
4    User Controlled Windows

5   Ductwork for Heating/Cooling
6   Exposed Concrete Structure

High / Low Energy Zoning
The high/low energy strategy places the most mechanically intensive spaces in a zone adjacent to the open labs, while low energy use spaces such as writing carrels, offices and interaction spaces are grouped along the perimeter. This “minimum energy” approach to the building plan, where 80% of the floor is naturally daylit and 45% of the building is naturally ventilated, does not require mechanical heating or cooling for 91% of the year.

Thermal Sweater
The thermal corridor functions much like a double-wall system, shielding the interior from harsh western light and the resulting heat gain. The alternating array of OKAWOOD and clear vision glass panels provides a warm materiality and textured light to the corridor.


The cool, mild Irish climate allowed interior comfort conditions to be met almost entirely by well-designed natural ventilation and passive heating systems.


reduction in energy usage from National Median EUI

reduction in potable water = 9,700 bathtubs

reduction in lighting power density from ASHRAE 90.1-2007

400 houses
reduction in energy use is equal to the annual energy of 400 houses in Ireland (313 in the U.S.)


National University of Ireland, Galway
Biosciences Research Building

Galway / Ireland (Republic)


86,112 GSF

Cancer, Regenerative Medicine and Chemical Biology Research Laboratories, Vivarium, Imaging, Lecture Hall, Café

Sited in a rolling meadow near the River Corrib in Galway, Ireland, the Biosciences Research Building (BRB) is the first phase of the new North Campus Science Precinct at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG). Housing high tech science laboratories dedicated to cancer research, regenerative medicine, chemical biology and BSL-3 animal research, the BRB offers a transparent and collaborative lab environment that connects the new science precinct with the university’s historic campus. Among the world’s most energy-efficient buildings to support intense scientific research, the BRB was constructed for a remarkably low cost per SF ($413) as compared to similar facilities, which typically cost $600-800 per SF.

NUIG needed a new sustainable, economical, and efficient building to support a range of high-tech research labs. In addition to creating interior spaces that would enhance collaboration and provide a sense of community for the scientists, the building also had to shape the university’s new science precinct, establish a strong campus edge with a pedestrian thoroughfare, and connect with the surrounding landscape.

Set within a lush green field, the BRB is a thin, three-story bar building. Its slightly skewed massing echoes the neighboring river and forms a boundary for the new precinct. A material combination of render (local stucco) and indigenous blue-black limestone reference the university’s existing architectural language, which is here complemented by an innovative OKAWOOD curtainwall and clear glazed panels. Inside the building, each floor contains two blocks of open labs bookended by office suites with meeting spaces. Glass partitions create transparency while open staircases in the central atrium and the end office zones link the floors.

The building employs a high/low energy sustainability strategy that allows the interior to be 80% daylit and requires mechanical heating or cooling less than 10% of the year. Spaces with lower energy needs — the thermal corridor along the building’s west side, writing desks along the east, and office suites on the north and south ends — surround high energy use lab spaces. The most mechanically intensive spaces, such as tissue culture and imaging suites, appear in distinct zones adjacent to the open lab space. Low energy use spaces are grouped to optimize natural ventilation and daylighting strategies, and glazed interior partitions allow natural light to filter into the open labs.

Innovative Components
The BRB’s most distinctive feature is its OKAWOOD curtainwall, in which a wood lattice is sandwiched between insulated glazing units. This provides a warm, textured surface that inside and out appears to be change with different qualities of light. The curtainwall shades the thermal corridor from a harsh western exposure and glare, a significant problem in Ireland due to extremely low sun angles.

The BRB is pursuing BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rating of “Very Good” (equivalent to LEED Platinum).

In collaboration with Reddy Architecture and Urbanism
Photography © Warren Jagger

Project Team
Kevin B. Sullivan, FAIA

Leon W. Drachman, AIA, LEED Green Assoc.
Design Principal

Robert C. Pasersky, AIA
Project Manager

Wesley Schwartz, AIA
Project Architect