Canadian Consulting Engineer

AWARD OF EXCELLENCE / BUILDINGS The Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre

October 1, 2013
By Halsall Associates

Juror Comments

Juror Comments

 “This building is a showcase of Canadian engineering innovation and excellence. Complex structural engineering solutions were required to meet an architectural vision that theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has recognized as a “work of architectural genius.”


The University of Waterloo’s Lazaridis Quantum Nano Centre is a showcase for innovation. The centre is home to one of the largest concentrations of researchers in quantum information in the world. The discoveries and technologies that come from the research at LQNC will not only shape our generation, but also many generations to come.

Structural subconsultant Halsall Associates applied creative solutions to the complex geometric challenges of the building and its strict user requirements. The result is a world-renowned research facility.

A mushroom and honeycomb

The complexity of the LQNC provided a unique challenge. This five-storey, 26,476-m2 building includes laboratories to accommodate ultra-sensitive research at the atomic and molecular scale, and a fabrication facility that will create nano-scale materials.

The laboratories are surrounded by circulation and office spaces which extend over the laboratories on the second floor. The architectural and vibration limitations did not permit columns around the edge of the building, so the perimeter is hung from the roof structure, much like the structure of a mushroom.

Steel played a significant role in matching the strict building usage requirements with the sophisticated architecture. For example, the “honeycomb” structure gives the building a stunning visual identity, but at the same time, the honeycomb has a structural function to hang floors from the roof and transfer the load to interior bays, thereby avoiding potential vibration transmissions to the sensitive laboratory areas below the office spaces.

While it is uncommon to use steel in areas sensitive to vibrations, Halsall designed a two-way system using a steel structure, which in turn allowed for large column-free lecture rooms. Several portions of the building have generous cantilevers and transfer structures to allow for open spaces. Cantilever trusses occupy the roof and fifth floor of the mechanical penthouse. To support the floor structure below, one truss cantilevers over 7 metres to support the other truss, which spans over 21 metres.

Isolating vibrations

and preventing electromagnetic interference

Additional innovations were implemented in the design of the floor structure. For example, in the specialized laboratories that are highly sensitive at quantum and nano scales, glass fibre reinforcing elements were used in the floor structures to prevent electromagnetic interferences, while expansion joints were used to isolate areas of high vibration.

The vibration criteria (VC-E) needed for some of the laboratory spaces were extremely stringent. The VC-E required for the clean room, for example, was 3 micrometer/sec — that is 162 times more stringent than what is required in office spaces.

Concrete waffle slabs adjacent to the laboratories provide strength and stability to the structure and are proven to be very effective in mitigating low-frequency vibrations. The ribs in a waffle slab also provide low floor deflections compared to other types of suspended floor structures.

Everything from site selection to acoustical detailing to foundation and superstructure design was critical to the design.

Several green building concepts were incorporated, including green roofs and large vertical windows to provide natural lighting. Natural ventilation with heat recovery is used in the atrium to manage indoor air quality.

Often the architectural design of complex buildings of this nature is compromised due to the stringent technical requirements involved. The LQNC is innovative in that it fulfils its function as a world-renowned research and testing facility, while doubling as an architectural showpiece.cce

Project name: The Mike and Ophelia

Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre,

University of Waterloo, Ont.

Award-winning firm /structural engineer: Halsall Associates (Shahé Sagharian, P.Eng., Dino Verrelli, P.Eng., Ken Sissakis, P.Eng., Guillermo Gabrielli, P.Eng.,

Ian Trudeau, CET)

Owner: University of Waterloo

Client: KPMB Architects

Other consultants: HDR Architecture

(laboratory); H.H. Angus & Assoc.

(electrical-mechanical); Aercoustics

Engineering (acoustics); Colin Gordon & Assoc. (vibration); Vitatech Engineering (EMI-RFI); Conestoga-Rovers (civil); Chung & Vander Doelen (geotechnical); Martin Conboy (lighting); Leber Rubes (fire-life safety); RWDI (wind); cm2r (cost); Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg (landscape);

AECON (general contractor).


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