Sol Harris Day Architecture

Bluffton is a small private university in western Ohio. Their current science facilities do not adequately fit their student needs. The science lab and research facility is located underground in one large room with little to no natural light. The limited number of fume hoods control the size of the instructors’ classes to four students at a time, requiring them to teach multiple science classes to accommodate the students in the program.


  • Master Planning
  • Facility Assessments
  • Space Utilization
  • Site Selection
  • Visioning
  • Estimating/Scheduling
  • Sustainable Design
  • Branding
  • Visualizations and Graphics
  • Architecture
  • Interior Design
  • Move Management

The visioning process you led was highly effective in gaining both input and buy-in from campus stakeholders including especially the science faculty. Building consensus around the faculty’s teaching and learning goals established the foundation for a successful design process along with faculty enthusiasm for the process and project.

Hans Houshower, VP for Advancement, Bluffton University


With all this in mind, SHD was brought on to study the University. Several Visioning Sessions were conducted with administration, faculty and students to determine the University’s needs. SHD teamed with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, a national science expert, to provide top lab design, offering advice on ‘best practices’ and flexible learning spaces. From these sessions, information was gathered and analyzed, determining broad goals for the science laboratory project based on the commonalities within each stakeholder group. These goals will be used throughout the architectural design and construction process as a check and balance system to assure that the science building meets the needs of the University.

Project Goals:

  • Create a pedestrian-friendly campus
  • Bring transparency to the science program with views into the labs
  • Enable views to nature from labs
  • Improve interaction between students and faculty, and collaboration between different disciplines
  • Design flexible classrooms learning spaces, teaching in the labs
  • Further University’s goals for sustainability and environmental stewardship
  • Be cost-conscious

Site Orientation

The master plan not only studied the goals of the science program, but looked at the campus as a whole to determine the best placement for a new natural science building. A road that currently runs through the middle of campus will be removed, creating a pedestrian friendly center of campus, further enhancing this beautiful University.

Building Organization

The new natural science building will  house classrooms and labs for chemistry, biology and physics. The new science labs will house 19 filtered, green fume hoods and allow for ten to eighteen students per lab. This increase in section size will allow for more research with the same teaching load. Labs and lecture spaces offer greater flexibility. Designed with a dual purpose, labs give the instructors the flexibility to lecture before or during the research experiment as needed. Collaborative, large-scale learning spaces were created with moveable seating to give the option of large lecture space or small group flexibility.

Your emphasis on designing the building with a labs-first focus was another success factor in our planning process. This approach focused on faculty priorities and Bluffton’s greatest area of need to improve science instruction.

Hans Houshower, VP for Advancement, Bluffton University

Interior Concept

Large windows allow natural light to flow into the labs and learning spaces, creating a connection to nature. Glass classroom doors provide a view into labs so students in the corridors and common spaces can observe the work of others, bringing science in sight and offering visual safety. 


  • Teamed with national laboratory planning and design consultant, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (Design Architect), to establish state-of the-art biology/chemistry/physics lab designs
  • Coordinated market research of comparable regional science programs
  • Worked with faculty to refine and reduce the required spaces
  • Developed schematic designs in a 3D model
  • Developed project budget
  • Enhanced the campus plan by closing the thru road at center of campus
  • Provided presentation boards and narrative for fundraising materials

The detailed attention to lab planning and related energy cost calculations was an important factor in developing cost projections the administration and trustees could use with confidence.

Hans Houshower, VP for Advancement, Bluffton University

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