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Argonne National Laboratory, Energy Sciences Building

The principle objective for the design of Argonne National Laboratory’s Energy Science Building (ESB) was to create a world-class research facility that could meet the demands of today’s scientific investigation, and create a collaborative environment that would attract top researchers. The Department of Energy also wanted a building that would become a new face for the north campus and that would relate to the existing campus, as well as define a modern prototypical architectural vocabulary for further development.


In response to the programmatic and flexibility requirements for the ESB, a cast-in-place reinforced concrete system was selected for the four-level, 152,000 square-foot facility. The system was chosen after exploring several framing options in the conceptual design phase of the project. The Conceptual Design Report helped define the structural systems demands and priorities for the successful implementation of the program. These included modularity, adaptability, vibration control and assisting the architecture in meeting the goals of collaboration. The structure features a primarily concrete building frame that incorporates a number of systems. The floors and roofs are framed predominantly with conventionally reinforced one-way slab and beam systems. The typical floor consists of a five-inch thick one-way concrete slab spanning to 18-inch wide x 26-inch deep beams. The beams are in turn, supported by 20-inch wide x 26-inch deep girders to form a typical 22-foot by 33-foot framing bay. This bay size matches the desired 11-foot by 11-foot lab module use in planning.

Two key architectural features of the building required special consideration in designing the structural system for those locations. The atrium space required an increase in span to 44-feet, and the framing depth limitations at the west end “skygate frame” required the introduction of unbonded post-tensioned reinforcing to limit deflections and satisfy loading requirements.


The monumental stair design using cantilevered reinforced exposed concrete was a key element in the design of the interior atrium space; enhancing the sense of space and interconnection between levels and promoting the collaboration at the heart of Argonne’s mission.


The HDR-led design team studied a variety of planning, framing, and material options early in the design process. Ultimately, cast-in-place reinforce concrete was determined to best meet the programmatic and functional requirements of flexibility, modularity, vibration sensitivity and systems integration, to create a collaborative work environment—and the modern aesthetic technologically complex state-of-the-art energy research facility—desired by Argonne and the Department of Energy.

The one-way slab and beam system was chosen over two-way systems for its regularity of framing, enhanced stiffness, and the ability to accept modifications as the needs of labs change over the life of the building. The larger spans available with this system increased the number of lab planning options now and in the future. The use of a primarily conventionally reinforced system meets the need to be able to accommodate changes in systems and technology in the future.

Project Details


Lemont, IL


Argonne National Laboratory


HDR Arcthitecture, Lemont, IL


HDR Arcthitecture, Lemont, IL

Construction Management:

Jacobs Engineering, Chicago, IL

General Contractor:

Clark Construction Group, Chicago, IL

Concrete Contractor:

CECO Concrete Construction, Warrenville, IL

Total Project Cost:

$65 million

Total Project Size:

158,000 sq ft

Floor System:

Conventionally Reinforced One-Way Slab and Beam

Framing System:

Reinforced Concrete Moment Frame and Shear Walls


2013 CRSI Award Winner –
Educational Facility Category


Photo courtesy of HDR Architecture, Inc.
©2013 Dave Burk/Hedrich Blessing