Millennium Science Complex at Penn State earns LEED Gold; futuristic design features Wausau SuperWall and sun shades

Pennsylvania State University‘s recently opened Millennium Science Complex (MSC) has received rave reviews for its cutting-edge design, state-of-the-art departmental integration and use of high-performance materials, including Wausau Window and Wall Systems’ SuperWall™ system and ClearStory™ sun shades.

The project also has earned U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® Gold certification for its energy efficiency and environmentally responsible design and construction.      

Designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, the 275,600-square-foot MSC houses the University’s premier research organizations: Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and Materials Research Institute. The $215 million building was completed in summer 2011, three years after general contractor Whiting-Turner first broke ground.

Initially planned as two separate buildings, architect Rafael Viñoly combined the projects into a single building early in the design process. The new complex consolidates engineering, chemistry, biology, physics and other disciplines that had been housed in 40 locations around Penn State’s central University Park campus.

The L-shaped building houses the research departments in two distinct perpendicular wings. The wings join together at the fourth floor to form the building’s architectural signature — a striking cantilever that soars 150 feet in the air, stretching over the building’s main entrance and open-air, public plaza.

Along with defining a powerful aesthetic that already has become a campus icon, the overhead cantilever also is essential to the building’s structural design: It provides the support necessary for the complete acoustic and vibration isolation required by the state-of-the-art “quiet rooms” and nano-mechanical laboratories located directly beneath the public plaza.

The curtainwall system itself also plays a key role in Rafael Viñoly’s design. The lines of the brick-clad exterior are offset with rows of continuous window systems along each of the structure’s four stories. This allows an abundance of natural light to penetrate the building’s interior and creates a visual band around the building’s exterior. Each section of curtainwall on the building’s second and third floors are accented by exterior sun shades, helping control solar heat gain and glare while emphasizing the horizontal lines of the structure.

To meet the demands of performance and aesthetic requirements, Whiting-Turner and glazing contractor D-M Products, Inc. specified Wausau’s SuperWall curtainwall. “We have utilized Wausau Window and Wall Systems extensively on many Penn State University academic buildings for nearly 30 years. Their window and curtainwall products are highly engineered, precisely fabricated and provide the University with superbly performing, low-maintenance building envelopes that will look great and last for many years to come,” says D-M Products’ president, Dick Macurak.

Wausau fabricated and shipped nearly 37,000 square feet of its 6250 and 8250 Series two-sided structural glazed SuperWall. D-M Products’ team assembled and installed the system in the field. In addition, Wausau provided shop-fabricated, pre-assembled 90-degree curtainwall corners and ready-to-install ClearStory sun shades.

“To ensure the desired look and performance, we worked with Rafael Viñoly’s team from the early stages of design,” says Steve Gille, Wausau’s education market manager. “We gave careful attention to the sun shades and their connection points with the curtainwall. We engineered the sun shades as integral to the curtainwall and performed all of the structural calculations to make sure everything works together as intended.”

Wausau’s engineering manager, Jeremy Harger, adds, “We provided building information models (BIM) of curtainwall, which were inserted into the master. This helped detect clashes in the design schematics, which saved time and avoided errors in both manufacturing and installing the systems. We also ran numerous thermal models to get the proper balance of surface temperature and condensation resistance.”

Contributing to MSC’s LEED® Gold certification, Wausau’s SuperWall systems’ achieve U-Factors are as low 0.44 BTU/hr-sqft-°F and a frame Condensation Resistance Factor (CRF) range from 67 to 78. The aluminum frames contain recycled content averaging 70% or greater. Linetec painted the aluminum in a three-coat, custom Champagne Bronze Sunstorm 70% PVDF finish and a two-coat Sandstone 70% PVDF finish. Viracon fabricated the glass. Coupled with the recognized benefits of daylight and outside views, these were just a few of the components that helped the building achieve certification.

MSC’s other energy-efficient features include:

* More than 60,000 square feet of green roofs that cover six separate areas

* A drainage system that collects water and helps reduce stormwater runoff

* Heat recovery wheels that recycle air and absorb energy

* Deep set windows with energy-efficient glass and fitted louvers

“Millennium Science Complex serves as an outstanding example of how collaborative, upfront involvement between the design, contractor and manufacturing team members can deliver the desired performance and beauty, creating a stunning campus icon,” concludes Gille.


Millennium Science Complex, Pennsylvania State University, 201 Old Main, University Park, Pa. 16802;

* Architect: Rafael Viñoly Architect; N.Y.;

* General contractor: Whiting Turner Contracting Company; Allentown, Pa.;

* Glazing contractor: D-M Products, Inc., Bethel Park, Pa.;

* Glazing systems – manufacturer: Wausau Window and Wall Systems, SuperWall curtainwall and ClearStory sun shades; Wausau, Wis.;

* Glazing systems – glass: Viracon; Owatonna, Minn.;

* Glazing systems – finisher: Linetec, Wausau, Wis.;

* Photographer: Jeremy Bittermann; Portland, Ore.;

600450 Millennium Science Complex at Penn State earns LEED Gold; futuristic design features Wausau SuperWall and sun shades

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