Chemistry Research Building

Chemistry Research Building

Fort Collins, Colorado

Designing for Elegant Efficiency

Beautifully sited within the landscape and tucked beside modernist buildings on the Science Mall, the Chemistry Research Building at Colorado State is designed like a Swiss watch — efficient, precise, economical. Inside, scientists are solving our global challenges.

RATIO as Design Architect in association with HCM.
Colorado State University
61,275 SF
LEED Platinum Certified

We learned key lessons from less-efficient research layouts. In a typical facility, each researcher might dictate the specific, unique composition of his or her lab space. This sounds acceptable, in theory, but in practice this hyper-customization creates separation, waste, and duplication. We embraced the challenge: to create an extremely efficient research facility.

These universal research lab layouts are highly adaptable, allowing for the inevitable ebb and flow of research space needs. They also lower the overall operating cost and provide capacity for up to 115 researchers and more than 125 fume hoods. Behind-the-scenes, integrated technology and mechanical systems support the building, including the heavy requirements of servicing laboratory spaces.

This shift — from separate research spaces to open, flexible shared laboratories — was not easy for faculty, nor was it attempted without their guidance. They provided invaluable input, and, together, we created an open lab concept that would truly work for all.


The Chemistry Research Building at Colorado State University has been awarded with a Platinum LEED Certification – one of two such chemistry research facilities in the country. Its sustainable design features include: a high-performance heat recovery system, a robust daylighting strategy, a process-chilled water loop that reduces water consumption, and a rain garden designed to detain and filter stormwater on site.

Colorado Modern

Following the pattern of James Hunter, a Colorado-modernist architect, the building fits into the campus vernacular. The exterior features a blend of Coloradan stones and expanses of glass.

Big Sky Mountain

The beautiful, diffused north light of Big Sky Colorado shines into the labs through vast windows

Chemical Reaction

An expressive stair with a copper backdrop wall offers a striking example of chemistry in action. It’s patinaed differently from top to bottom (a chemical process).

Functional Space, Open Feel

Open circulation and sightlines through the entire building. Three zones: public circulation space, researcher workspace, and lab bench space. Gathering place top-floor, conferencing area, small rooftop terrace.