i.lab, Research and Innovation Centre, Italy

by Richard Meier

Richard Meier
Scott Frances–OTTO
Italcementi | HeidelbergCement

Located in the Kilometro Rosso Science Park in Bergamo, Italy, HeidelbergCement’s research and innovation center i.lab has an overall surface area of 23,000 m2 and hosts more than 120 researchers all engaged in investigating and developing innovative technological, functional, and aesthetic solutions for new construction materials.

The i.lab is characterized by the utmost attention to quality, which is also apparent from the details of each and every component, but first and foremost from the quality of space. Large airy spaces allow people and functions to interrelate along the paths suggested by architect Richard Meier.

Richard Meier has designed the i.lab as a structure including two above-grade and three basement levels. i.lab follows and reinforces the V-shape of the site: the two wings facing a central courtyard seem to accentuate the building’s opening towards i.land, an ornamental landscaped park.

The impressive arrow-like canopy that lies above the main entrance creates a two-story generous covered public plaza leading to a sky-lit atrium from which the two wings of the building depart. The first wing runs parallel to the highway and contains labs and offices; the second wing houses a large conference room with up to 260 seats on the ground floor and corporate offices of HeidelbergCement’s subsidiary Italcementi on the upper floor.

Designed and built to conform to LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, i.lab has been rated PLATINUM, the highest LEED rating for energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable buildings.

i.lab complies with very strict energy efficiency requirements, which allow it to save up to 60% more energy than a traditional building of the same size and end-use destination. This has been possible thanks to the special construction methods adopted, the materials used, and the recourse to renewable energies.

The building’s roof is fitted with 420 photovoltaic panels: total electricity generation per year is estimated at roughly 96,000 kW, corresponding to 52 tons of CO2 saved each year. 50 m2 of solar thermal panels are meeting 65% of the building’s yearly hot water requirement.

Fifty-one wells serving the building were dug as far down as 100 m from road level. The geothermal system contributes to winter heating and summer cooling, with energy savings of up to 50% and 25% respectively, thus reducing overall CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

Alternative, recycled, and/or locally produced materials have been used to build i.lab. The i.lab building is covered with mortar containing TX Active®, the photocatalytic “smog-eating” active principle. Some walls in the i.lab building are made of i.light, the “transparent” cement developed by Italcementi laboratories and used for the first time on the Italian Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai. Some interior and exterior decoration elements are made with i.design EFFIX, a mortar with impressive mechanical and aesthetic properties, developed for creating non-structural concrete elements. i.idro DRAIN was used for paving the ramps leading to the basement floors and the garden, and also for the concrete beading around the plants. i.idro DRAIN is an innovative concrete formulation capable of draining water.

Originally published by Heidelbergcement

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