Preparing students for careers in the science professions through development of a state-of-the-art new educational facility.

University Science Center
Lewis University
Romeoville, IL

Lewis University selected Wight & Company to design-build a new high-tech Science Center. Our design for this three-story addition features 12 labs for individual, hands-on work in chemistry, biology and physics, with a design that helps to equip students with the problem solving skills necessary for successful performance in the real world. 

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Project Challenge

This three-story, 51,000-square-foot new science facility was envisioned as a state-of-the-art academic building that would support student learning in the sciences and allow faculty—often in collaboration with students—to make major advances in science research. With a site located in the heart of active campus, the client also expressed a goal of having the new Science Center serve as a hub of collaboration. Although the facility would be used extensively by science students, the Science Center would serve every student of the University as part of the Liberal Arts curriculum. It was desired that an appropriate image and welcoming design be employed to appeal to not only science students, but non-science faculty, students and staff, as well.

Additionally, the project’s central campus location presented a significant logistical and phasing coordination challenge.

LEED Certification was also a primary goal for this project.

Our Solution

Our design locates the building’s main entrance on the northeast side, where a welcoming three-story, glass-enclosed atrium is enhanced by a large, elevated outdoor terrace. These elements serve as a beacon to the campus community and support cross disciplinary collaboration.

The glass on the east/northeast elevation is contrasted by brick masonry on the north elevation; the latter is reminiscent of the module grid layout of science labs and research facilities. The interior of the building features a three-story atrium with five 28-foot diameter skylights. “Flying” stairs and terrazzo floors further enhance this public space that serves as the heart of the building. A 360-degree view of the Lewis University campus is provided from the upper floor student lounge.

Beyond student and faculty research projects, the facility accommodates scientific studies that are being conducted in partnership with local and even international corporations, laboratories, and federal agencies. Through this center, Lewis University made a commitment to address the national needs in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) areas, important to the advancement and security of our country. In light of this, we provided flexible spaces for group work. Six specialized prep areas support each teaching lab, and an additional eight research labs are provided for faculty projects. Other key spaces include three conference/seminar rooms, classrooms equipped with SMART Boards, and gathering spaces to accommodate special events of both the department and the broader campus community. 

To enhance the quality of implementation, Wight’s construction team developed a detailed phasing and demolition schedule early on, enabling the design team to incorporate certain details into the construction documents that would seamlessly facilitate phasing and logistical requirements.


The Owner desired that the project be LEED Certified as an expression to the entire campus community of the University’s commitment to being good stewards of our environment. We worked aggressively from the outset to design a highly sustainable building with minimal added up-front costs. More than 31 environmentally friendly features, including innovative design, solar powered pathway lighting, low mercury lighting, and daylight harvesting were incorporated. Ample daylight is introduced through the northeast entrance façade and the curved east façade of glass, which also incorporates sun screens and operable windows. Interior offices feature clerestory windows, and student gathering spaces on the north side of the building, on the top two floors, feature floor-to-ceiling glazed windows.

The design-build approach contributed significantly to the pursuit of LEED certification. The construction team’s early involvement enabled the designers to make decisions which accounted for additional points while not negatively impacting the project budget. Examples of this included HVAC equipment selections, glazing, and the sourcing of local materials. The construction team worked with the MEP engineers and commissioning consultant to define the efficiency expectations of the systems, requirements for testing and balancing, and the details and sequencing of commissioning. These requirements were incorporated into the schedule and included in the subcontractors’ scopes of work.

The new Science Center exceeded Lewis University’s goal and has achieved LEED-Silver certification.

Awards & Recognition

  • 2014 National Award of Merit, Educational Facilities, Design-Build Institute of America