The Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center



“From supersized caissons to supersized transfer beams to a delicate new glass roof winter garden to reinforcing the steel frame for the adjacent fully occupied adjacent research building to plan for a 360’ tall future expansion, I cannot think of a more challenging structural design project and the team from Thornton Tomasetti was up to the challenge every time we found a new one!”
– Jay Baehr
Senior Project Manager, Facilities/Capital Programs, Northwestern University

Thornton Tomasetti provided structural engineering services for the Louis A Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine (SQBRC) in Chicago, Illinois. The new research center will serve as a hub for Northwestern’s downtown Chicago medical academic district and is sculpted to fit in seamlessly within the existing research campus.

SQBRC was conceived as a two phase project. The first phase of construction is a 14 story 320 foot high building with 600,000 square feet and construction cost of approximately $370M; phase two will eventually build-out to an elevation of 600 feet with an additional 600,000 square feet, making it one of the tallest lab buildings in the world. The first phase is partially within the footprint of a site previously occupied by a large hospital and partially on top of the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Biomedical Research Building, an existing lab building. Specialty architectural features which are discussed in the following paragraphs include a dual skin south facade, a long span pedestrian bridge, several monumental stairs, wintergarden, glass fly by, and vibration considerations.

From the beginning, SQBRC was built with future expansion in mind. Working with Perkins and Will (P+W) and Northwestern (the owner), Thornton Tomasetti designed foundations and the superstructure considering the worst case scenario from both phases. Accommodations for the second phase include unique details, particularly at the top of the columns and shear walls just above the first phase roof. Additionally, Thornton Tomasetti proactively worked with the Northwestern University and our in-house construction support services to permit future crane foundations and anticipate crane tie in locations to minimize interruptions of the occupants when the second phase is constructed.

The first phase of SQBRC consists of a vertical expansion, above the loading dock of the existing Lurie. Lurie’s original design included future expansion; however, SQBRC significantly modified the original design intent. The new research center instead had a different architectural module, column grid, and a curved northern profile to avoid blocking light into the existing Lurie labs. As a result of these modifications the new column locations did not align with the existing columns or deep foundations and drove the need for a network of transfer trusses and plate girders to accommodate the desired laboratory layouts. In addition to the vertical expansion, considerations for the horizontal expansion needed to be addressed. Thornton Tomasetti collaborated with the wind tunnel consultants to minimize the expansion joint size between the existing Lurie building and SQBRC, and with P+W to locate the expansion joint where it would have the least impact on building’s architecture.

As with all higher education research occupancies vibration considerations needed to be addressed, particularly in the laboratory spaces. Thornton Tomasetti coordinated framing depths with the architect and mechanical engineer, and verified our analysis with our in house vibration experts to develop independent models to compare with the results from a vibration consultant to size the floor framing to meet the strict requirements of the lab spaces.

The architectural vision for the south elevation consisted of a column free bay with a double skin façade to let in natural light and provide a glimpse of the research that is going on inside. Thornton Tomasetti worked with the specialty façade consultant and curtain wall fabricator to coordinate the exterior wall weight, anticipated vertical movement, and slab connection detailing. The impacts on the ceiling heights and structural profile at the slab edge were minimized by detailing the cantilevered framing that supports the double skin facade with coped ends. Costs were kept in check and on budget because of the integration of Thornton Tomasetti and fabricators early on in the process.

A long span pedestrian bridge extends north from SQBRC to span over Superior Avenue and provide a direct connection to the existing Searle Medical Research Building. To avoid affecting the Searle building’s foundations, the bridge incorporates a 53’ cantilever at its northern tip.

Several sets of monumental stairs provide connections between public spaces. The northern lobby features three sets of monumental stairs that connect the entry portal to the common spaces on the lower floors. Monumental stairs also link pairs of collaboration spaces on the lab floors.

The northern entrance connects the building to Superior Street with a pedestrian plaza, winter garden and lobby galleria. Working with P+W, Thornton Tomasetti reframed the existing steel structure to accommodate a new glass winter garden that ties the existing Lurie Lobby into SQBRC. Column transfers relocate large columns from above and create a more spacious northern lobby.

The southern façade features a glass “fly by” parapet that extends the curtainwall 35’ above the 12th level mechanical floor slab. The vertical fly by is supported at three levels by structure, cantilevered horizontally from the southernmost columns to support the vertical and lateral loads.

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Successfully engineered buildings both resist anticipated loads and maintain comfortable and functional conditions for occupants. Vibrations from walking, dancing, exercising, synchronous cheering, operating mechanical equipment, construction activities and wind gusts can generate motion that disturbs building occupants or disrupts sensitive operations. We use analysis and monitoring to identify vibration sources and determine methods to reduce or eliminate undesirable effects. We have performed vibration analyses in commercial and residential high-rise buildings, laboratories and industrial buildings, stadium grandstands, operable roofs and more.