The British Columbia Cancer Foundation's new $95-million Cancer Research Centre is designed for functionality. Researchers began working in the building on the first day it opened.
The 231,000-sf Centre provides for the full spectrum of scientific research, largely in BSL-2 facilities with two specialized BSL-3 areas. Labs include advanced therapeutics, cancer control research, cancer endocrinology, cancer genetics and developmental biology, cancer imaging, a genome sciences center, medical biophysics, molecular oncology, the Terry Fox laboratory, and a transgenic facility in the 20,000-sf vivarium. The building contains 65 fume hoods, 140 bio-safety cabinets, and 600 pieces of specialized equipment.
The BC Cancer Research Centre is really two buildings in one: An office complex with an adjacent research complex, housing 60 principal investigators and 600 research/support staff. The unusual split design came about as an efficient solution to a constrained site and a tight budget.
The lab side of the building contains six stories separated by interstitial floors. The stories measure 22 feet from floor to floor; they would have been 16 feet high without the interstitial space. This extra height allows for twice the amount of office space next door, with two floors of offices for each floor of labs.
That separation between mechanical systems and the labs they serve also contributes to the flexibility of the lab configurations, a critical feature of their design. The floor is concrete and the ceiling is metal decking. The plumbing and electrical and electronic cabling are all in the ceiling, which enables all primary changes in that space to be made without disrupting the research.
In addition, most labs contain identical modules with no walls between them, and are outfitted with moveable furniture; only the benches are fixed. The labs don’t even contain interior walls, but instead open to ghost corridors.
The lab side of the building contains 68 circular, 15-foot-diameter windows which represent the petri dishes that have long been a staple of scientific research. The office side is colorfully paneled in a repeating pattern that mimics the banding pattern of the sixth human chromosome. And the 12-story spiral staircase, visible through an exterior glass column, represents the DNA spiral.
A 2,900-sf, ground-floor library serves more as a resource for patients and the community than for the scientists, who tend to do their literature searches electronically.
Designed to a minimum silver-level LEED rating, the Centre contains many sustainable elements. The recovery chiller generates heat that is used to heat outside air during the spring, fall, and winter. Dual flush toilets, waterless urinals, and low flow faucets reduce building water usage. Windows in the spiral stairwell can be opened to eliminate the need for mechanical cooling.