MDL Delivers a Safe and Sustainable Laboratory for World Class Research

Mike Finder, Argonne National Laboratory
Catherine Hurley, Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne's new Materials Design Laboratory (MDL) was completed in 2019 and is designed to maximize collaboration between energy and materials scientists at Argonne. Sustainability is a defining feature in the design of MDL and the facility achieved a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating from the U.S. Green Buildings Council (USGBC). MDL also complies with DOE's Guiding Principles of High Performance Sustainable Buildings (HPSB).

The MDL is critical to support Argonne's major and future scientific initiatives, allowing scientists to discover new materials, understand how they work, and put them to use. From designing tailored superconductors to finding replacements for silicon in next-generation computers, scientists at the MDL will deliver break through innovations to support energy security, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity for the nation.

The MDL encompass roughly 115,000 square feet of laboratory and office space, including 10,000 square feet of lab space for radiological research, in which scientists can work safely with radiological isotopes to determine their relevance to new energy technologies.

Among the sustainable design features are high-efficiency lighting, recycled material content, energy recovery systems, helium recovery systems, green power, high-efficiency HVAC systems, high-performance fume hoods, regionally sourced materials, certified wood, low-emitting materials, and enhanced commissioning. To meet the DOE's high sustainability standards for MDL, Argonne took an integrated planning approach that embedded sustainability through the design process. Opportunities for sustainability were assessed and incorporated throughout the process, which resulted in adding innovative elements, such as stormwater treatment for parking lot runoff and a condensate cooler that captures waste heat from the steam system in the adjacent Energy Sciences Building.

Two challenges faced the design team in achieving sustainability goals. First, Argonne was required to both meet LEED Gold certification and also achieve HPSB, which is more difficult than LEED and also requires sustainably programs and activities to be in place at the campus/organization level that are beyond the typical LEED project boundary. In addition, Argonne used As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) Design for the radiological laboratory suite on the 3rd floor. The ALARA design included extensive use of HEPA filters and ventilation design elements for safety which impacted building energy use. The MDL will embody the best in class for providing a high-efficiency, modern laboratory to inspire innovation and breakthrough in energy and materials science.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe integrated project team approach to building sustainability into the design of a new laboratory;
  • Identify requirements for achieving compliance with Guiding Principles for High Performance Sustainable Buildings for a laboratory facility;
  • Identify the key strategies for incorporating ALARA into a new laboratory design and it's impact in laboratory efficiency; and
  • Explain key strategies for achieving LEED certification for a laboratory facility.


Michael Finder, AIA, NCARB, LEED BD+C, PMP, focuses on project management of design and construction projects throughout all phases of the project life cycle. Michael's experience ranges from international large-scale developments, conceptual planning, urban design, mixed-use, high-rise, urban infrastructure, to complex laboratory research facilities. As Program Manager for Major Projects at Argonne, Michael serves as Owner's Representative, providing leadership on numerous complex projects.

Catherine Hurley is Sustainability Program Manager for Argonne National Laboratory where she directs projects that increase efficiency of facilities and operations while reducing the use of natural resources. Catherine has a Bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Dayton and is a Registered Professional Engineer, LEED Accredited Professional, ISSP Certified Sustainability Professional, and Certified Energy Manager.


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