Irani Oxy Engineering Complex
The IOEC building offers an optimal massing solution creating twin, bent and sculpted linear ribbons of labs paired around an intelligent circulation and technical spine. A generous North South atrium opens the upper campus views to the sea, and frames the symbolic Clock Tower from the Corniche. The structure-free floor plate of about 1500m2 provides all the required flexibility to group modules and shift partitions.
Each module of the lab is completely independent, with its own access, shafts, ventilation etc. and allows easy combination and technical upgrades. All labs have independent access from the central spine and natural ventilation and natural light on demand through the active, intelligent skin.
Educational / Laboratory Building
2005 – 2013
6 floors– 10 000 m²
2 basements – 6 000 m²
This building was the first registered in Lebanon to be assessed according to the US Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED sustainability scheme, LEED New Construction v2.2.
The IOEC officially received the LEED GOLD certification on April 22nd, 2015 and is the 4th LEED certified project in Lebanon.
Part of the transformation of the American University’s lower campus from backwater into a vibrant example of urban campus design, the IOEC Center is not only a model example of an engineering lab - a Cartesian structure presented in an aesthetic form – it is also Beirut’s first LEED-certified building.
Given its prominent position on the seafront edge of the campus and the desire to respect the skyline and enhance cross-campus views, the center was subject to a number of massing studies to open it up to multiple viewpoints and bring the campus landscape into the building. The final design, a gently angled building composed of two parallel, folding ribbons, one of four and the other of five stories, has accomplished those goals.
The components are fused together along a central glass-walled spine, which serves as vertical core for technical infrastructure and horizontal circulation conduit for building users. Bisected at one end by a full-height atrium, the ribbons angle gently apart at either end, widening the spine and creating light-drenched seating areas. When viewed from above, the building resembles an X-chromosome. A slightly set back rooftop terrace serves both as gathering space and a place to conduct outdoor experiments.
Ingenious structural columns, which begin as a single pillar below ground and split above ground, are pushed to the edge of the floor plate, not only maximizing flexibility but also freeing interiors of load-bearing structure, making them easy to configure and use as required.
Adding to this flexibility, lab modules are designed to be functionally independent of one another. Each has an individual point of access and each can be reconfigured when required, thanks to flexible partitioning that permits labs to expand or shrink in size. Each module is equipped with its own individual glazed shaft, which houses ventilation conduits, electrical wiring and pipes carrying laboratory fluids and gases.
The choice behind this decision was three-fold. Firstly, by exposing the building’s technical systems, students are given a greater appreciation of the engineering that surrounds them. Secondly, a change to one lab’s wiring or piping need not necessarily affect all labs and finally, by making each lab functionally independent, its infrastructure can be upgraded or overhauled on an individual basis.
Clad in a glass skin – except on the eastern and western façades, where sandstone is employed for thermal protection – the prong-like support columns keep floor-to-ceiling windows free of obstruction, creating extensive, open planes of glazing. Maximizing transparency, this floods labs with natural light and when shutters are open, allows passers-by to witness activity within.
When necessary, however, windows can shielded by altering the position of the sliding aluminum screens hung on the outside of the panes. Perforated with an abstract pattern mimicking the foliage of the trees surrounding the lab, these simple but high performance screens are an initial layer of filtering. Blackout screens located on the inside of panes may also be deployed in cases where complete control of the light (or heat) entering each lab is required.
Architecture: nabil gholam architects
Structural Design: Bureau d’Etudes Rodolphe Mattar,
Electro-mechanical Design: Barbanel Middle-East,
Landscape Design: Francis Landscapes ltd,
LEED Consultant: Eco-Consulting,
Quantity Surveyor: DG Jones, Technical Control: Socotec Liban
Photography: Ieva Saudargaite
1st prize winner for the international limited design competition, Awarded design consultancy services contract,
Shortlisted WAN Education sector awards 2010