Location Columbus, OH
Size 225,000 ft²
Completed 2014 (expected)
Program Laboratory spaces, classrooms, administrative, and academic offices


Client The Ohio State University
Project Architect Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
Architect of Record Stantec Architecture
Construction Management Gilbane Building Company
Commissioning Heapy Engineering

Together, the chemical and biomolecular engineering and chemistry departments at The Ohio State University produce a large volume of the university’s innovative scientific research. Even though they’re technically housed under two different colleges—the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences, respectively—they have a history of collaborating on projects. And by the end of 2014, they will share space in the new Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry Building, one of Ohio State’s most transformative projects.

The building, already known on campus as CBEC, broke ground in June 2012, but the need had been discussed for nearly ten years prior to its formal approval. “Both … departments needed new buildings,” says Bernie Costantino, the university architect and interim director of design and construction within the facilities operations and development office at Ohio State. “The departments have a history of collaborating on their work, so we had to develop buildings that could accommodate the partnership.” But instead of buildings, plural, Ohio State’s planning team proposed a solution that in academia is somewhat radical: construct one new building that would house both departments under one roof. This would not only unite two distinct departments in one space, but it would also bring together facilities for two separate colleges.

For Ohio State, the CBEC proposal puts forth an idea that has yet to be tested in any other building project. “It’s the first building on campus designed for a space type and not just the needs of one college,” Costantino explains. In other words, CBEC prioritizes the demands of cross-college research over the individual colleges’ space needs and recognizes that the best pioneering science will be accomplished if departments in separate yet related fields can share laboratories, classrooms, and administrative spaces.

The one-building solution also upholds Ohio State’s ambitious commitment to sustainability, which was launched officially in 2008 with the signing of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. When completed, CBEC will have a footprint of 225,000 square feet, but it will only add new—not extra—square footage to the campus. “Ohio State’s One Ohio State Framework Plan (the university’s long-range plan) calls for no net new academic space,” Costantino says. “We already have enough building space on campus, but it’s not all at the quality we desire. For CBEC, we’ve demolished four obsolete buildings to make way for the new building.”

The two-story student lounge on the sixth floor will be almost entirely daylit and will overlook the landscaped courtyard area.

The two-story student lounge on the sixth floor will be almost entirely daylit and will overlook the landscaped courtyard area.

When finished, the new CBEC building will look nothing like the squat, brick buildings it has replaced. Its design, conceived by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, meets the required benchmarks for both LEED Silver and the EPA’s Labs21 certifications. The building itself is programmed into two main sections, a four-story laboratory block, and a six-story office tower connected by footbridges on the second, third, and fourth floors. University classroom space and a public lobby occupy its ground floor. “Putting the classroom space and meeting spaces on the ground floor means that students, faculty, and staff won’t have to go in and out of the lab,” Costantino says. “It will help make the building more useful for the entire university.” Utility translates to the building’s site, too, as Pelli Clarke Pelli maximized green space by pushing CBEC’s footprint to its lot’s eastern edge. Ohio State plans to landscape the area with benches, footpaths, and gathering spots so that students, faculty, and staff can enjoy the new public place between classes and on the weekends. And inside, CBEC will always feel connected to the outdoors due to its transparent glass construction. “We hope that being able to look outside from inside all the labs, offices, and classrooms will inspire everybody’s work,” Costantino says.

It’s this openness, both literal and figurative, that Costantino believes the Ohio State community will most appreciate about CBEC’s design. For the university at large, it will serve as a model for future development. And for its new tenants, it will help maximize the collaborative work that is already being done. But one element, Costantino knows, is definitely certain: the chemical and biomolecular engineering and chemistry departments can’t wait to move in.