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A Look Back: Careful integration of architectural and engineering elements demonstrates that the whole of a design can be greater than the sum of its parts.



To say cutting edge would be underselling the University of Southern California Broad CIRM Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research. Established in 2006, USC’s stem cell research program regularly hosts more than 200 world-class scientists who are harnessing the power of stem cell biology to treat neurodegeneration; hearing loss; blood, heart and kidney disease; osteoarthritis and bone fractures; and cancer.

Originally conceived in 2005, the project is the product of a public-private partnership between the Keck School, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and California’s voter-created California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Completed in 2010, the five-story, 91,485 square foot structure, located on the university’s health sciences campus, is connected to the adjacent Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute via bridges on each floor and a basement tunnel. The buildings also share support services including steam, soft water, liquid nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. The school tapped ZGF Architects as designers and the general contractor Morley Builders.


The overall strategy grew from the facility’s goal of creating an environment that fosters collaboration, discoveries, and expansion. The building is home to stem cell research and regenerative medicine laboratories, housing 15 faculty members and more than 150 staff and students. The researchers collaborate with colleagues at other organizations to translate basic discoveries into new treatments for cancer, neurosciences, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, metabolic diseases, and immunology/infectious diseases. The building is set on a slope from the south to north elevation. To bring as much natural light into the laboratories as possible, the architects and interior designers from ZGF placed the mechanical systems on the semi-subterranean ground floor. The first floor is dedicated to public functions and includes a lobby and a large seminar room. The upper floors house laboratories and offices.

The entire premise at the institution is doing everything as sustainably as possible. A key feature of the interior—the day lighting—starts on the exterior. The east and west sides of the building have glass façades running the full length to maximize natural lighting in the labs and offices. W&W Glass joined the team due to their outstanding reputation, world-class designs, and engineering prowess on Pilkington Planar™ point-supported cable tension structures. In collaboration with installers at Walters and Wolf (a California-based glazing contractor), W&W Glass’ final design for the east featured Pilkington Optiwhite™ low-iron SentryGlas interlayer laminated, silk-screened glass with a custom translucent-simulated acid etch frit pattern on the #2 surface for the exterior, including vertical wall face glass, roof return, and soffit. The glass was secured to stainless steel tension cables using Pilkington Planar™ 905 series fittings on custom “longhorn” rods clamped to the cables. The interior had a window wall system inboard of the strucuturally-glazed exterior wall with a large cavity in between for air flow, adding a large interstitial space to act as a thermal barrier to provide a complete dual-skinned wall system. This is often known as a “climate wall”, which provides very high energy efficiency. In cooler temperatures, the climate wall acts as an insulating barrier, retaining warmer air inside the cavity. It also acts just the opposite in the warmer months to keep things much cooler. Alternating patterns of transparent and translucent glass areas create engaging oblique exterior views, while maintaining an privacy and glare control in the labs. The outside tall-span structural glass curtain wall, supported by cables, meets California’s stringent seismic requirements, which can be a challenge at times with large continuous spans in high seismic areas like this. 


The west façade features a more traditional aluminum curtain wall with low-e glass and additional fritting as an energy efficient tool to reduce heat gain. Angled laminated vertical glass fins on the west also help reduce glare from the afternoon sun without blocking exterior views.

Transparency continues inside the laboratories. There are no obstructions across the building or between the laboratory bench zone and desk/dry zone. The open labs, called neighborhoods, are flanked by support spaces for fume hoods and tissue/cell culture rooms. Circulation paths direct traffic along the exterior walls. The second floor is occupied by core laboratories and the Stem Cell Collaborative and Training Core, part of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). These facilities, which include lab benches, fume hoods, an environmental room, and a sterilizer facility, are used to teach and disseminate knowledge about stem cell research to the USC community and others.


The $80 million stem cell center was the first building on the USC Health Sciences campus to receive a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold designation based on the structure’s unique eco-friendly features, sustainable materials used, and green design/construction methods. USC’s stem cell research center also serves as the heart of the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, as well as the USC Stem Cell initiative, an interdisciplinary, university-wide collaboration that leverages the transformative power of stem cells to develop the therapies of the future.

W&W Glass LLC is a family owned business with a 70-year history in the metal and glass industry, one of the largest metal and glass companies in the New York metropolitan area and the largest supplier of structural glass systems in the country. We have over two decades of experience in the design and installation of various building enclosure systems, including stick-built curtain walls, pre-glazed unitized curtain walls, Pilkington Planar structural glass facades, and custom metal and glass enclosure systems. We install all of our work with our own dedicated union labor force. W&W is consistently the largest employer of glaziers in the NY metropolitan area.


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