Particle Accelerators and Passive Design: A Case Study of the OHSU Center for Radiochemistry Research

Nedzib Biberic, PAE
Bryan Higgins, SRG Partnership

The 9,600 square-foot Center for Radiochemistry Research at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) houses a cyclotron particle accelerator to generate radioisotopes for research and clinical applications, hot cell clean rooms, a compounding pharmacy, a general chemistry laboratory, offices, and mechanical space. Nestled inside a patchwork of research facilities in the heart of the OHSU campus, the Center's proximity to public outdoor areas, a cafeteria, and vivarium challenged the design team to find solutions to safely deal with radioactive exhaust, shield exterior spaces, design for a variety of lab types and work spaces with a tight pressure relationship, and create minimal site disturbances.

From the beginning, the design team aimed to create a rich and productive working environment aligned with the functional requirements of radiochemistry research. The office and mechanical areas were elevated to the second level of this two-story building. Here, an array of rooftop skylights and a large south-facing window wall provide passive daylighting, which creates an airy and energy-efficient work space. The first-floor layout keeps imaging areas requiring heavy shielding in the interior while general chemistry labs occupy up the perimeter. Large windows in the lab provide occupants with access to daylight and views. While this feature increases indoor environmental quality and occupant productivity, the constantly changing solar gains in a lab that requires stable and consistent temperatures provided the architecture and engineering team with a significant design challenge.

The case-study style presentation of this unique project will include insights on how these design challenges were overcome from an architectural and engineering perspective; lessons learned on the design and delivery of this complex and unique project, including the importance of post-occupancy verification; and, how despite these challenges, the design concluded with an energy-efficient, award-winning project.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify design solutions that allow for daylighting and views in spaces with strict environmental requirements.
  • Address the design challenges related to dynamic laboratory spaces with tight pressure relationships.
  • Recognize the importance of post-occupancy verification.
  • Explain the requirements and design solutions to safely deal with radioactive exhaust


Nedzib Biberic is a senior associate at PAE and a mechanical engineer specializing in innovative and sustainable systems. With 20 years of experience, Nedzib's elegant and simple designs intersect human comfort with building efficiency to create healthy and flexible working, research and learning environments. He has presented at the Oregon Solar Energy Conference, 2015 SCUP Pacific Region Conference, Oregon Energy Modelers Forum, and for Portland's American Institute of Architects.

Bryan Higgins is a LEED-accredited project designer who brings 26 years of experience with a focus on healthcare, science and technology, and higher education projects. He is highly regarded for his creative design skills, attention to detail, and strong client relationships. Bryan upholds sustainable innovation as pivotal to great design. As a project manager, Bryan brings a strong commitment to teamwork and a conscientious ability to coordinate efforts of all involved parties.


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