NASCC 2017

Night School


Singh Center for Nanotechnology Wins National Architecture and Engineering Award

September 15, 2014 from American Institute of Steel Construction

(Chicago, IL) – The Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology, a 78,000-sq.-ft research and teaching laboratory on the Philadelphia campus of the University of Pennsylvania, has earned national recognition in the 2014 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program (IDEAS2). In honor of this achievement, members of the project team will be presented with awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) during a ceremony at the building on Friday, September 19, at 2 p.m.

Conducted annually by AISC, the IDEAS2 awards recognize outstanding achievement in engineering and architecture on structural steel projects across the country. The IDEAS2 award is the highest, most prestigious honor bestowed on building projects by the structural steel industry in the U.S. and recognizes the importance of teamwork, coordination and collaboration in fostering successful construction projects.

The awards presentation coincides with a day special to the U.S. structural steel industry: national SteelDay. Steel industry companies and related businesses across the U.S. celebrate the day with a variety of events taking place from coast to coast (www.steelday.org).

The building’s project team members include:

  • Owner: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • Architect: WEISS/MANFREDI, New York (entered project in the competition)
  • Structural Engineer: Severud Associates, New York
  • General Contractor: Gilbane, Inc., Philadelphia
  • Steel Fabricator: Lynchburg Steel & Specialty Company, Monroe, Va. (AISC Member/AISC Certified Fabricator)
  • Steel Erector: Steel Suppliers Erectors, Inc., Wilmington, Del. (AISC Member/AISC Advanced Certified Steel Erector)
  • Steel Detailer: Delta Structural Steel Services, Idaho Falls, Idaho (AISC Member)

The Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology is a Merit award winner in the category of projects Greater than $75 Million, making it one of only eight projects around the country to receive the Merit honor. Each year, the IDEAS2 awards honor National and Merit award winners in three categories, based on constructed value: projects less than $15 million; projects $15 million to $75 million; and projects greater than $75 million. Each project is judged on its use of structural steel from both an architectural and structural engineering perspective, with an emphasis on: creative solutions to project’s program requirements; applications of innovative design approaches in areas such as connections, gravity systems, lateral load resisting systems, fire protection and blast; aesthetic and visual impact of the project; innovative use of architecturally exposed structural steel (AESS); technical or architectural advances in the use of the steel; and the use of innovative design and construction methods.

“The project takes what could have been a pedestrian building and celebrates science with the dramatic use of color and form,” commented IDEAS2 awards judge, Philip Tobey, FAIA, senior vice president and a national healthcare leader of SmithGroupJJR in Washington, D.C.

Poised at the western edge of Philadelphia and the eastern edge of the University of Pennsylvania campus, the newly opened Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology demonstrates the university’s leadership in the emerging field of nanotechnology; nano-scale research is at the core of cutting-edge breakthroughs that transcend the boundaries of engineering, medicine and the sciences. At the physical and ideological convergence point of these disciplines, the new $92 million center contains a rigorous collection of advanced lab spaces woven together by collaborative public spaces that enable interaction between different fields. The university's first cross-disciplinary building, the new nanotech research facility encourages the exchange and integration of knowledge that characterizes the study of this emerging field.

Defined by a new 1.7-acre central campus green, the 78,000-sq.-ft facility ascends as a spiral of research, reaching its highest elevation at the forum, a cantilevered meeting space over the quad. The building contains state-of-the-art lab spaces, distributed over three floors, including a 10,000-sq.-ft clean room lab chase for nano-fabrication, a 6,500-sq.-ft characterization suite and a 12,000-sq.-ft laboratory program. Connecting all four levels, the light-filled 54-ft tall galleria includes collaborative lounge spaces and conference rooms that complement research conducted within the labs.

The center’s most dramatic and complex structural design feature is the forum, a 4,000-sq.-ft assembly space that cantilevers 68 ft over the courtyard and includes multi-purpose functions such as lectures, receptions and meetings. Strength and vibration were core design parameters, and the vibration of the floor under dynamic human loading is the controlling criteria of the structure. The vibration of the floor beams and the overall rhythmic vibration of the room are controlled by the stiffness of the steel trusses and lateral restraint of the braced frame. The cantilever is constructed of two inverted trusses with hang columns to capture the horizontal floor diaphragm.

The south-facing curtain wall façade of the center’s galleria has a sloping roof that slices through the curtain wall plane stepping it in two directions. A horizontal truss diaphragm is employed at the sloping roof plane to resist the horizontal wind loads on the curtain wall. The north side of the horizontal truss is supported by steel columns on the foundation wall. The south side of the horizontal truss is more structurally dynamic and is supported by cantilevered beams with hanging columns that suspend the north edge of the truss from above. The hangers and columns are all architecturally exposed structural steel (AESS). In order to match the construction tolerances of the AESS, slip connections are provided where the hangers meet the upper roof steel. The lower roof between the hangers and the columns is constructed with AESS tolerances.

The monumental stair is unusual because it is a 55-ft-long free-span stair stringer supported by a 24-in.-deep, 20-ft cantilever. Though deflection and strength were considerations, similar to the forum, vibration parameters controlled the design. Five 24-in.-deep steel wide-flange members frame the 10-ft wide stair.

The laboratories require very strict vibration tolerances for maximum equipment performance. The lower level transmission electron microscope (TEM) rooms require a completely isolated six-sided box construction. The clean room bay and chase have 52-ft free-span beams that create a column-free space for maximum flexibility, and the general labs contain 34-ft free-span beams to allow for a column-free space. This design resulted in an actual vibration criterion that exceeded the anticipated design criteria.

The IDEAS2 award dates back more than 70 years to the earliest years of AISC’s existence. And about this year’s winning research and teaching laboratory, Roger E. Ferch, P.E., president of AISC, said, “The Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and practicality. The result is a structure that serves the university, its faculty, staff and students extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel.”

High-resolution images of the Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology project are available upon request by contacting AISC’s Tasha Weiss at 312.670.5439, [email protected]. For more information about the IDEAS2 awards and to view all of this year’s winners, visit www.aisc.org/ideas2.

Singh Center
Photo Credit: Albert Vecerka – Esto


For more information contact:

Tasha Weiss
Communications Department
(312) 670-5439
[email protected]



American Institute of Steel Construction
The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

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