The project includes the renovation of the Michigan Phoenix Laboratory, built in 1955 as a living memorial to men and women who lost their lives in the World War II, and a new addition which houses the University of Michigan Energy Institute (UMEI). After the world’s first nuclear reactor used for research of the beneficial potentials of atomic energy, located in the vicinity of the MMPL, was decommissioned a decade ago, the university decided to modify the building to facilitate a broader range of energy research.
The $11.1 million project started with renovating the building’s third floor. Phase 1 included an upgrade of the building’s mechanical and electrical infrastructure, restoration of the masonry exterior and replacement of the exterior windows. A new program was then introduced, along with two large chemistry labs. Service carriers, benches, cabinetry and work surfaces are mobile and can be reconfigured to facilitate different uses. With the exterior wall almost 100 percent glazed, the labs receive an abundance of natural light.
As for the UMEI addition, the architects introduced an overhang and a rounded glass curtain wall to a two story exposed steel structure, while a horizontal fritted glass sunscreen regulates the amount of natural light entering the upper floor. The 10,161-square-foot addition comprises three new conference rooms, support spaces and a common area. A solar sundial located in the lobby tells the time of day and allows one to compare the time difference to other major cities throughout the world.
Photos by Curt Clayton