07-25-22 | Department

New Building at the Universities at Shady Grove

Creating a magnet of activity that is highly transparent and connected at multiple levels to community and environment.
by Bryan Dunn, Mahan Rykiel Associates

The recently constructed Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Sciences (BSE) building at the Universities at Shady Grove, located in North Potomac MD, replaces a 500-space surface parking lot and re-orients the campus toward nature with numerous plantings and ecological offerings. The building features solar panels and has multiple courtyards. Vehicular traffic is moved to the campus boundary to encourage a pedestrian experience in the campus's central ecological spine via views, materiality, and circulation.
The pictured boardwalk connects campus research programs and parking. The boardwalk weaves through the wetland to avoid existing vegetation and is raised to minimize impact on the natural environment. A regional bus system and university shuttle connects all nine universities and the surrounding community to a newly configured entry drop-off at the beginning of the boardwalk.
Eighty-four percent of occupied spaces inside the building have a direct view to the outdoors. These views provide a connection to nature and serve as a reminder to building users of opportunities to utilize the numerous outdoor rooms. Several maker-labs, DIY spaces, where students can use 3D Printers and other tools, provide the capability to take their work directly outdoors.
The design team shaped spaces for gathering on all sides of the building and with varying degrees of vegetative cover to provide four-season comfort in the outdoor environment. The pictured seating is flexible, permanent, and it allows for a multitude of uses and space configurations.
The sunny south side of the building is home to a tiered outdoor classroom and breakout space for BSE maker-labs. A large lawn panel, lined by a row of Red Maples with nearby benches, provides space to expand while offering the school a signature space for hosting large special events.

The new Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Sciences building (BSE) embodies the story of the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). The six-level, 220,000- square-foot facility and its four-acre site enhance the collaboration of the nine sister institutions at USG with their advanced degree programs in cutting-edge technology and medical science fields. Programs in physical therapy, dentistry, mechanical engineering, biotechnology, biological sciences, electrical engineering, environmental science and technology, and associated fields are housed in the building. The project is LEED Platinum certified.

The landscape architect, from Mahan Rykiel Associates, has been involved in the planning and implementation of The Universities at Shady Grove Masterplan since 2002. The most current building project is the BSE presented here. Sited on an existing surface parking lot on the edge of campus, the project effectively "re-centers" the campus through its generous public space and pedestrian connections between USG, the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR), and parking facilities.
The BSE is designed to create a sense of 'home' on this regional campus by enhancing the student experience through spatial diversity that supports collaboration and socialization. This diversity of spatial conditions in and around the building parallels the diversity of learning styles, scales, and cultures, as well as the transient nature of this eclectic community. An example of this crossover, Natural Bluestone is used throughout the site where vertical structures meet the ground. There are also practically constructed concrete elements featured around the exterior of the building.
Located at the headwaters of the Piney Branch Watershed, a sub-watershed of the Watts Branch, which is a tributary of the Potomac River, the project is dedicated to creating a strong connection to the local site ecology while minimizing the impact on the adjacent wetland. This same gesture becomes the method of treating stormwater runoff from the project's impervious surfaces. Pedestrian circulation follows the drainage and water treatment flow while extending the campus spine southward and connecting to a recently completed parking deck over a raised boardwalk. The BSE also collects all rainfall on the site into underground cisterns or filters it into bioswales before it is introduced into the wetland. Through rainwater harvesting, condensate reuse, and foundation dewatering, the BSE is designed to offset over 1.3 million gallons of water per year.
A critical goal of the project was to enhance human health and happiness by celebrating our innate human attraction to natural systems and elements. This goal is achieved through various biophilic experiences throughout the site and building. Nestled between the north and south bars of the building are two intimately scaled courtyards constructed in materials of wood and stone and planted for 4-season interest, offering immersive natural experiences for visitors. Anchoring the east courtyard is a site-specific art installation inspired by the ecological context and scientific and engineering disciplines
of the building.

The new architectural vocabulary and character established by BSE help define and strengthen the identity of the Shady Grove campus, creating a magnet of activity that is highly transparent and connected at multiple levels to community and environment. This new structure is designed to teach students and other users about building performance by showcasing building systems and learning opportunities. Establishing a highly accessible public space, while maintaining a "student-owned" experience, the BSE is an outer expression of the role of USG in the community, effectively addressing both the needs of employers and the educational needs of students.


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