Signature Building Raises Institutional Profile
Cutting-edge science facility establishes University’s research identity


Research labs orient inward to the atrium, which is a radical shift from typical research buildings. Glazed walls allow unobstructed views through the research spaces, reducing the volume of ventilated research space and building energy usage. Placing the labs on display within the atrium fosters a dynamic, open and collaborative scientific environment.

1   Atrium
2   Lab Write-Up Zone
3   Open Research Lab
4   Lab Support / Equipment
5   Computational Research
6   Conference Room
7   Communicating Stair
8   Office
9   Solar Veil
10 Thermal Overcoat
11 Kitchenettes
12 Bridge Lounge

start-up culture
Separating the lab write-up zone from the high energy research space allows the latter to be reimagined as collaborative, flexible workspace. Informal workspaces flow from the lab onto the bridges and kitchen, which link via a dramatic spiral stair.

multipurpose atrium
A defining space in the ISEC is the light-filled atrium that functions as the cultural melting pot, creating a vibrant shared public realm. At the ISEC’s official opening, crowds flooded the atrium for the opening symposium featuring a keynote speech by National Science Foundation Director France A. Cordova.

To optimize the profile, form and performance of the sunshade system, our designers developed a parametric model alongside custom compositing software that allowed them to perform iterative simulations to accurately predict the screen’s solar performance.

climate-responsive facades
The ISEC’s facade elements intrinsically link to environmentally efficient high performance architecture. The climate-responsive building envelopes positively impact occupants’ visual and thermal comfort.

Tapered windows flow into radiused corners

Ribbed panels seamlessly become screens 

Concrete anchors a screened stair tower

energy savings over typical lab

energy cost savings over code

cumulative shading reduction

reduction in water use

peak solar heat gain reduction

reduction in lighting power density (LPD) achieved with high efficiency light fixtures

Northeastern University
Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex

Boston, MA / United States

234,000 GSF

Biology, Bioengineering, Computational Biology, Genomics, High Through-Put Screening, Imaging, Materials Characterization, Metabolomics, Teaching labs

LEED Gold Certified

Constructed on an urban brownfield site that consisted of a surface parking lot set between two garages, the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC) forms the initial phase of a long-term vision to link the University’s Huntington Avenue Campus with Columbus Avenue, span the MBTA and Amtrak rail lines, and connect the Fenway and Roxbury neighborhoods. The motivation for the new ISEC stems from the University’s desire to establish itself as a premier research institution with the most cutting-edge science facility in Boston.

With limited room for growth on the main campus, the ISEC is located in a 660,000 SF academic precinct across the Amtrak/MBTA rail lines. A sloping landscape leads to an accessible path across the train tracks with a pedestrian bridge that flows into the core campus. The ISEC building is rotated to align with this path, negotiate the slope and invite student traffic through an atrium scaled to serve as the new student hub for an expanded campus. The new building represents the first completed phase of the new academic precinct, with Phase 2, the pedestrian connection (PedX), slated for completion in 2018.

Over the last decade, Northeastern University has become an increasingly strong research university, requiring new facilities to attract world-class researchers. Concurrently, research at the University is transitioning to an interdisciplinary approach toward global challenges in the areas of sustainability, security and health. Envisioned to address the needs for cutting-edge and interdisciplinary research, the ISEC—separated by the Amtrak/MBTA rail lines from the main campus—faces the additional challenge of avoiding isolation.

The ISEC, housing a vibrant interdisciplinary research community, is shaped by faculty neighborhoods and wide open, flexible laboratories that surround a six-story atrium, or melting pot, at the heart of the new academic precinct. A mix of wet labs, dry labs and computational space on each floor support interdisciplinary research teams as they tackle today’s complex scientific challenges. An iconic landscaped pedestrian bridge will ultimately join the new Columbus Avenue site with the main campus across the tracks, linking the Roxbury community with the Fenway neighborhood.

The ISEC is designed to use 75 percent less energy than a typical intensive research building (103 EUI) and will provide the University a projected 33 percent energy cost savings. Parametric design and energy modeling helped create a high-performance architectural form that, coupled with innovative energy recovery and conservation systems, drastically reduces building energy usage. The ISEC is tracking LEED Gold and complies with the 2030 Commitment energy reduction targets.

Landscape renderings copyright: Stephen Stimson Associates
Photography (c) Keitaro Yoshioka; (c) Warren Jagger Photography

Robert J. Schaeffner, FAIA, LEED AP

Kevin B. Sullivan, FAIA
Design Principal

Barry A. Shiel, AIA
Project Manager

Wesley Schwartz, AIA
Project Architect