The new Vagelos Laboratory for Energy Science and Technology (VLEST) will occupy a prominent and critical site on the University of Pennsylvania campus, simultaneously announcing one’s arrival to the campus core and furthering the University of Pennsylvania’s goal of enriching this entry point to the campus with inhabitation and urban intensity. The project must negotiate a one-story grade differential between Walnut and 32nd Streets, and establish strong relationships with its neighbors on the block, in particular the David Rittenhouse Laboratory, the historic Palestra athletic facility, and potential future development to its west. Care must be taken with respect to the adjacent railway bed in terms of mitigating structural vibration and, potentially, electromagnetic interference. This building, while modest in scale with respect to its environs, will play an outsized role in the expression of the University towards the City of Philadelphia by announcing its commitment to outstanding research and scholarship in the field of innovative energy development.
The project calls for a highly sustainable building representative of the research it pursues. With an emphasis on passive low-energy design strategies, the project is also supported by progressive integrated, active strategies. VLEST will provide high-quality indoor and outdoor environments to attract and retain faculty and students and maximize learning potential, research productivity, and interdisciplinary collaboration. These goals will be achieved by the establishment of clear energy performance targets and an aggressive pursuit to their implementation. As a result, the building will be a model of low-energy laboratory design, demonstrating Penn’s commitment to both environmental and operational sustainability in its pursuit to carbon neutrality by 2030.
The project houses High Performance Optics Labs, Fume-Intensive Chemistry Labs, a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer Suite with Helium Recovery, Student Researcher Write-up Space, Faculty Offices, an Administrative Suite for Departmental Programs, a student Clubhouse, and building support spaces including a loading dock, materials management rooms, and general storage.