October 15, 2012
University of Waterloo’s Quantum Nano Centre a showcase for innovation worldwide
A facility designed as a showcase for Canadian innovation and industry in the fields of quantum computing and nanotechnology has officially opened in Waterloo, Ont.
Designed by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg (KPMB) and constructed by Aecon Buildings, the massive 26,010-square-metre Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum Nano Centre at the University of Waterloo is the first of its kind in the world to unite the two disciplines under one roof.
“Breakthrough science is advancing at dizzying speed today, with quantum physics at atomic and sub-atomic scale,” said Mike Lazaridis, the centre’s founder.
“Simultaneously, rapid movement is happening in nanotechnology, where fabrication of materials, devices and systems 100 nanometres or smaller is being explored.
“This critical nexus of quantum computing and nanotechnology brings the world closer to the cusp of previously unimagined solutions and insights.”
Constructed at a cost of $130 million, the new five-storey building houses the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC), the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology and the university’s undergraduate program in nanotechnology engineering. A total of 400 academics are accommodated.
The centre was conceptually inspired by the Newton Institute in Cambridge.
In Waterloo, IQC and the Nanotechnology Institute each occupy their own building and are joined by a six-storey central atrium which acts as an indoor pedestrian route and an informal gathering space.
KPMB said the design organizes “mind spaces” — lounges, offices and meeting rooms — around the edge of the atrium where interdisciplinary interaction can flourish.
An integrated design team approach was taken to the project.
“We first engaged researchers, both theorists and experimentalists, in deep discussions to understand the ways and patterns of their work,” said Mitchell Hall, KPMB design architect and principal-in-charge of the project.
“This advance research later provided the groundwork for the development of the interior and exterior of the complex.”
The facility was designed to meet stringent scientific standards, with controls for vibration, temperature fluctuation and electromagnetic radiation.
One of the signature features is a 929-square-metre clean room with fabrication facilities for quantum and nanodevices, as well as an advanced metrology suite, extensive teaching and research laboratories.
The exterior is distinguished by a hexagonal honeycomb lattice of structural steel, a pattern inspired by the stable hexagonal carbon structure of the nanotube.
The podium of the building is clad with burnished concrete block to relate to the primarily masonry fabric of the University of Waterloo.
The project was undertaken by a team that included structural engineers Halsall Associates Ltd., mechanical/electrical engineers H.H. Angus & Associates Ltd., civil engineers Conestoga-Rovers & Associates and landscape architects NAK Design Group.
The project posed its share of challenges for Aecon, which was awarded a lump-sum contract in June, 2008 to construct the building.
The facility is considered the most complex scientific building ever constructed by the university.
“This is a one-of-a kind building,” said Aecon’s senior project director Wayne Green, noting that integration of the new technologies into one building required fitting stringent scientific requirements and systems “within a highly detailed architectural finish.”
Green said methodologies to construct almost every aspect of this facility were a challenge “and far from the construction norm.”
In addition to substantial dewatering, the project required incorporation of waffle slabs, structural steel support on the outside of the building skeleton, a highly complex mechanical, electrical and control system and strict vibration, humidity and dust control measures.
“The result Aecon feels is a building our clients and future users will thrive in, which will stay ahead of technology for many years to come,” Green said.
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