The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is working on a new home for the team that manages the research center’s world-famous 2-mile linear accelerator. Construction is more than halfway complete on a new research support building (RSB), to be finished in April 2013, which will create space for collaboration between scientists, engineers and support staff.
The project is being funded under a 10-year U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program that aims to improve the nation’s laboratory infrastructure. With the $97.4 million DOE gave the research center in 2009, SLAC has started its own modernization project, which currently includes the demolition of a trailer park and a complete renovation of administrative and warehouse buildings.
Just over a year ago, 13 portable classrooms and office buildings sat at the current site of the RSB. Established as a temporary installment in the 1960s, “PEP City” was an outdated, small and disconnected system that SLAC administrators say they are happy to see gone.
“It was a very old, aging facility,” said Karen Chan-Hui, electrical engineer and project manager at SLAC. “We had a need to replace the deficiencies with a new, safe and collaborative environment for the scientists as well as the support staff to work together.”
Chan-Hui said the idea behind the building fits in with SLAC’s “one lab” approach, which involves consolidating facilities in order to conduct research efficiently.
“The mission of the project was to co-locate the accelerator scientists and engineers… to combine and bring everybody together so you didn’t have people working together on a daily basis who were located in five different buildings,” said Steve Jack, SLAC’s construction manager.
Along with the DOE funding came the requirement that all new buildings be built with a 30-percent energy savings from the previous building standard.
“For a building the same size as one built in 2007, this building has to be built to have less energy use by 30 percent,” Jack said. “And this particular building has actually achieved 40 percent savings.”
Along with cutting down on pollution, construction for the RSB has been mindful of sound pollution and other construction inconveniences, Jack said. The SLAC team has scheduled construction for the weekends, and has made sure not to keep necessary utilities available.
“There’s been typical construction impact,” Jack said. “The traffic around the site, at times, has been impacted due to deliveries of material and utility connections under the road. We haven’t had any big problems with the tenants around the building and have definitely not impacted the science or the labs.”
SLAC holds a monthly informational event called “coffee crunch” to inform the community about current events going in the research center.
“We work with the communications department to make announcements ahead of time,” Chan-Hui said. “One of the reasons the community has not had a big complaint about it is because we informed the community since before the construction started.”
SLAC celebrated its 50th reunion this year, and looks forward to finding more ways to make the lab more organized and efficient. The center’s eventual dream for the RSB is to move the control room for the linear accelerator into the building to further consolidate the lab, according to Jack. The construction team will either use funds left from this project or reach out to various programs within the DOE.
“It wasn’t a part of the original scope,” Jack said. “We’ve made provisions for a new main control center to be built in there once additional funding becomes available.”
Along with the modernization project, the construction team at SLAC has just started two other building projects. They have recently laid down plans for a Science and User Support Building, intended to house and centralize the conferences and collaborations of SLAC scientists.
This new facility will be joined by the new Linac Coherent Light Source Building, which will also be dedicated toward SLAC’s latest project: using ultrafast X-ray pulses to take unprecedented stop-motion photographs of atoms and molecules in motion.
“SLAC has a lot more than just the RSB going on,” Chan-Hui said.