Achieving Multiple Goals with One Big Move

Lorry I. Lokey Laboratories

University of Oregon

The Integrative Science Complex is the signature research center associated with the University of Oregon’s Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute. The Lokey Laboratory, an addition to the complex, was sited underground to create a new campus open space, better collaboration across disciplines within the complex and an ideal environment for sensitive equipment.


26,000 sf


Eugene, OR

Year Complete


2008 Complex Mechanical System Award — Associated Building Contractors Awards

Why Put the Lab Underground?

Instead of placing the new building above ground on a tight site between two existing buildings, the SRG design team suggested putting the lab beneath a new public plaza. By building the Lokey Laboratory underground, the design created a new much-needed public plaza for the Science Complex; directly connected the facility to adjoining science buildings, which enabled staff and students to move seamlessly across the complex; and ensured optimum performance of the twenty highly-specialized, vibration and temperature-sensitive nanoscale imaging instruments located in the lab.

The Laboratory contains semiconductor, photolithography, nanofabrication and bio-optics labs. These instrument labs all surround a central, skylit collaboration area that brings together research faculty from a variety of disciplines across the science complex, including materials science, molecular biology, genomics, geology, neuroscience and optics.

Design for Advanced Research Equipment

The structure was placed underground and directly on excavated bedrock, creating an extremely “quiet” (low-vibration) space that tested below NIST-A criteria, the most stringent vibration performance level. Concrete reinforcement was specifically designed to minimize electromagnetic interference.

Nanoscale imaging instruments require extremely tight temperature tolerances. The mechanical system in the Lokey Laboratory was designed to provide high-volume/ low-velocity airflow with very little temperature variation. The resulting system has been validated with data loggers to operate steadily with just a 0.10°F fluctuation over a 12-hour period.

The only portions of the facility located above-grade are a new lobby that serves as the entrance for the new center and the two existing buildings with four existing entrances.