California Institute of Technology, Kavli Nanoscience Institute TI

Know what a buckminsterfullerene C60 is? In the field of nanotechnology, it's the scientific name for a “buckyball,” one of the simplest of the carbon structures. And while these structures are known for their simplicity, the physical facilities in which they are researched are anything but.

In March of 2008, DPR completed a 10,000-sq.-ft. buildout of a research laboratory for emerging nanoscience technologies for the California Institute of Technology Kavli Research Institute. The 8-month project, which took place in a fully occupied, functioning facility, features three classes of cleanrooms: Class 100, Class 1,000 and Class 10,000 - similar to highly technical microelectronic manufacturing facilities. To offer some perspective, according to Wikipedia, the ambient air outside in a typical urban environment might contain as many as 35,000,000 particles per cubic meter. Cleanrooms, which DPR has constructed more than $3 billion worth over the last 18 years, are classified according to the number and size of particles permitted per volume of air (i.e., Class 100 means 100 is the maximum permitted number of particles per cubic foot).

Although well-experienced in cleanroom construction, with its large ductwork and stringent clean-construction protocols, DPR still had to overcome several challenges in the building of the Caltech Kavli research laboratory. The Kavli lab is located in the subbasement of a five-story building, two levels below grade, which means the space in which to locate the mechanical systems that support the laboratory's equipment was limited. Simply put, space was extremely tight. DPR quickly mitigated the problem, however, by working with the HVAC contractor to design/assist the mechanical needs of the project.

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