Prominently positioned at the eastern end of the Kilometro Rosso Scientific Technology Park in Bergamo, Italy, the Italcementi i.lab is intended to be an iconic building expressing Italcementi’s position of leadership and commitment to research and innovation in the use of white concrete, and reflecting its celebrated reputation for technical expertise. The structure is a benchmark in sustainable design, having attained the first LEED platinum accreditation in Italy.
The new building reinforces the boundaries of the triangular site and incorporates a program of technical and administrative spaces into two wings. Comprising two levels above grade and two basement levels including parking, the V-shaped configuration houses separate laboratory and administrative wings surrounding a central courtyard, which features a garden and provides service and underground parking access. Below-grade courtyards at the perimeter provide natural light to basement-level laboratory spaces and fresh air for the mechanical spaces and the garage.
At the northeast corner of the building, which is also the terminating corner of the Scientific Technology Park, a large covered public plaza forms the main entrance leading to a two-story sky-lit atrium. The central atrium houses public reception as well as security control, and provides circulation space for both of the structure’s wings via two glass elevators and a dramatic glass ramp, both sky-lit and featuring views of the historical hills of Bergamo.
The interior organization of the laboratory wing responds to the highly specific functional requirements of the program. A simple structural grid and a central circulation corridor allow efficient and flexible layouts for various sectors. Above ground, laboratories and equipment are set back from the north façade creating a second perimeter circulation corridor and common space. The administrative wing houses a two-story multipurpose hall accommodating approximately 250 people. A sky-lit board room floats within this space on the second floor. All rooms on both levels are organized along a sky-lit gallery space that runs along the west façade, facing a vegetated roof garden.
The cantilevered precast concrete roof of i.lab assumes a strong and elegant profile. The roof also forms a virtual fifth façade perforated with a system of skylights directing light into offices, circulation corridors, and laboratory spaces. Natural light filters through the top floor into the interior spaces, providing illumination that changes throughout the day while the interplay of natural light and shadow over the distinctive curtain wall – composed of concrete elements, visual frit and clear glass – animates the façade.
The exterior skin facing the highway consists of layered concrete screen walls in a fan configuration. The horizontal concrete louvers are designed to be an integral and distinctive feature of the curtain wall system. An innovative high-strength, pollution-reducing reinforced concrete was developed by Italcementi specifically for this structure, and used for the north screen, the curtain wall mullion system and precast wall and roof elements throughout the building. The fritted north façade allows indirect light to permeate the laboratory spaces.
The remaining three sides of the building are clad with high-performance, low-e, insulating clear glass. The mechanical systems incorporate this highly energy-efficient façade as well as renewable energy systems such as photovoltaics, solar thermal panels and geothermal wells.
Other sustainable features include the harvesting and re-use of rainwater, the adoption of recycled and regionally-manufactured materials, the planting of native/adaptive species and a selection of materials and systems geared toward optimal indoor air quality and lighting/thermal control for the building occupants.