Remarks by Jacob Bigeleisen
With the completion of the Laboratory building plan for the period 1958-68, it became evident that a permanent building was urgently needed for the Chemistry Department. Additional space was necessary for the then-existing chemistry staff and we had to provide facilities not available in our temporary quarters for the staff and for planned growth. This project was given a high priority by the Director, Dr. Leland Haworth, and his Deputy Dr. Gerald Tape. It has enjoyed the continued support of their successors Drs. Maurice Goldhaber and Clarke Williams.
A committee from the Chemistry Department volunteered to determine the criteria for design and construction. The Committee has been a most conscientious one and I personally wish to thank each of them for their devoted efforts to the initial group of Norman Elliott, Gerhart Friedlander, Blair Munhofen, and Alfred Wolf. We later added Morris Perlman.
It did not take us long to come to decisions about the facilities needed nor about the space requirements. After some discussions amongst ourselves, with members of the Department, and after visitation of a number of new laboratories, it became obvious that some serious space and program planning was necessary. Starting about 1940 a great advance began to take place in the engineering design of scientific laboratories. For the first time, laboratories were engineered to provide the services needed by the scientist and his even more complex equipment. The individual and communication between individuals, so necessary for scientific work, got lost as the focus concentrated on providing space and facilities for equipment. Most laboratories were built in a stereotyped design whose shortcomings were becoming evident to scientists and administrators. Our Architectural Planning Department under Georges Peter and Donald Mac Cormack were most sympathetic to our concern, but lacked sufficient manpower to undertake such a study for us at the time. We were fortunate to secure the services of Marcel Breuer and his associate Robert Gatje, who carried through a programmatic study of our needs in 1960 and arrived at a conceptual design suitable for our purposes. Mr. Tucker of the Director's Office then translated this concept into a concrete proposal which was forwarded to the Atomic Energy Commission. The building was authorized early in 1961.
Local responsibility for the project was delegated to Mr. Don Moore of Mr. Van Hornís. staff and Mr. Aaron Levine and Mr. Walter Myott supervised the project for the AEC. At this juncture Mr. Tucker assigned Jack Lancaster and Arthur Worthington to the project. They worked hand-in-hand with us and produced volume after volume with detailed specifications of all the facility requirements when the architects and engineers responsible for the final design, Wank, Adams and Slavin - Architects and Vitro Corp. arrived, reams of paper awaited them. Roland Wank and Fred Adams put the full resources of their organization at our disposal. They made a thorough review of our requirements and concluded that the Breuer-Gatje plan was indeed ideally suited to our needs. The final design evolved from this concept.
A chemist needs (1) laboratories to do chemistry, (2) laboratories to house the modern specialized instruments necessary for his work (3) spaces to read, write and think. No less important are shop facilities and a well stocked storeroom. Good ventilation is absolutely essential for health and safety in a chemical laboratory. The instruments are even more temperamental than the scientists. As Dr. Seaborg has told you we were fortunate in our old quarters to have such rudimentary accommodations that good communication was part of the history of our department. We were determined to retain this valuable asset in the new building.
Considerations of communication and economy led us to fix on a three-story building. Most of the scientists in our Department require ready access to completely enclosed concrete rooms, which provide shielding to very delicate and sensitive nuclear counting equipment, from the radiation which comes to us from outer space. These rooms were placed in the core of the building adjacent to one another and stacked on one another. This geometry improves the shielding and provides a natural traffic pattern. By careful selection of the cement and aggregate under the supervision of Drs. Friedlander and Hudis a significant improvement in the residual background over our old facilities has been obtained.
At your seating places you will find a floor plan of the second floor of the building and you can easily find the counting room core. In each direction from the core running east and west are laboratory and office wings. Through the center of each laboratory wing is a service chase. These areas provide utilities for the individual laboratories. The utilities include electric power, hot and cold water, distilled water, vacuum, gas, dry compressed air, oxygen, steam, and connections for special gases. All the exhaust ducts are in this exposed area where there is ready access for maintenance and repair. The chase lends itself to addition of facilities when necessary. The materials of construction have been chosen after considerable testing. In each case, decisions involved considerations of initial cost and long-term maintenance. The laboratories are completely flexible. They can readily be converted for use as chemical laboratories, such as are necessary for radiochemistry, organic chemistry and radiation chemistry, to laboratories where high vacuum work is carried out. Only minor modifications are necessary to convert them to laboratories filled with scientific instruments such as magnetometers, X-ray diffraction, mass spectrometers, etc. This is particularly important in a chemical research laboratory where the patterns and requirements change from year to year. Opposite the laboratories are offices for private work adjoined by open alcove areas. These open spaces provide a view to the outside from each laboratory and afford areas where small groups can work together on the analysis of data, do desk computing and prepare laboratory notes. This is an evolution from our old quarters and in the short time we have been in the building we have found the laboratory, office, alcove arrangement a most workable and useful one.
The laboratory walls are non-load bearing and thus laboratory spaces can be enlarged or subdivided to meet our requirement from time to time.
The north wing of the building contains shops and service areas on two floors - heavy machinery on grade on the ground floor. The stockroom is on the second floor and centrally located within easy walking distance from all parts of the three story building. Its counterpart are the departmental offices on the south of the second floor.
I have alluded to the fact that proper ventilation is a prime requirement of chemical laboratories. This represents a major concern in the engineering design inasmuch as it involves a major cost item. Our final design provides for a non-recirculating system to avoid interference from one room to another. To minimize costs all exhausts are through chemical hoods, so necessary for the work of the chemist. This economical system also provides nearly ideal working conditions for personnel at no additional costs. It is a system which resulted from the combined efforts of Marvin Kass of the Vitro Corp., Jack Lancaster and myself. An integral part of the system is the actual hood design which was the result of a careful testing program.
F1nally we have attempted to provide areas for the expression of the tastes of the individual in a modular building. this has been accomplished through choice of color and texture. For this aspect of planning we are most grateful for the help of Georges Peter, William Catacosinos, Fred Adams and Fred Baumfalk.
We did not wait for the White House to turn our attention to the need for beautification in public buildings. Dr. Williams, Mr. Tucker, Mr. Peter and particularly Mr. Hunter have done an outstanding job, which we at the Laboratory take pride in. We in the Chemistry Department are most grateful to all who have helped us in providing the new facilities which we enjoy.
We can now adjourn to the buses which will take our visitors on a tour of the building. At the building, members of the Department will be available in the lobby to guide groups. They will be glad to answer any questions and show you any areas in which you may have particular interest. If there are some questions to which you would like particular detailed information, consult a member of the Building Committee.
Last Modified: June 28, 2012