From conception to completion YSB took a lot of people-including women

September 26, 2019

Walking by the new Yale Science Building (YSB) a passerby may notice its cool modern exterior made of steel, brick, and glass. Built into a hillside, in the footprint of the former J.W. Gibbs Laboratory, its muted exterior colors and clean lines blend in with its Science Hill neighbors. Seven stories high with over 280,000 square feet of space, the building can accommodate 45 research lab groups or roughly 500 people. It’s impressive to look at, yet even more impressive is what and who it took to get it built.

Construction began in 2017, after the Gibbs Lab was demolished. The building’s façade and public spaces were designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects of New Haven, while the high-tech interiors and building systems, were designed by Stantec, located in Butler, PA and New Haven. Some features include an almost 500-seat lecture hall that opens into a lobby featuring Peabody exhibits. The outside of the building has a massive landscaped courtyard and terrace overlooking Sachem Woods and Whitney Avenue, with views to East Rock, and a newly paved parking lot.

This project uniquely included women in all phases. This state-of-the-art research building will stand for hundreds of years thanks to the help of everyone who worked so hard, including women from the following disciplines: architecture, project management, construction, professors, and laboratory staff. Over the course of two years, the construction workforce was 5% female. “We tried to get as much female participation from as many trades as possible, including ironworkers, electricians, painters, and laborers,” said Sheri Miller, director of Planning and Construction Project Management.

We tried to get as much female participation from as many trades as possible, including ironworkers, electricians, painters, and laborers. Sheri Miller, director of Planning and Construction Project Management

Sheri, a licensed engineer, was the lead project manager (PM) on this initiative throughout the entire construction process. Lead PMs work with the planning group and architects as the project moves into the building phase. They manage the construction phase, working with consultants and the construction manager to implement the build. “At many of the meetings, and over the course of two years there were quite a few meetings, I was often the only woman present,” said Sheri.

Other colleagues who worked on YSB, included Kari Nordstrom, Director of Project Architecture and Design, Justin Pezzolesi, PM lead for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) work, and Shellie Anello, PM lead and liaison between the lab researchers and principle investigators (PIs). While Justin focused on wiring, duct work, and air-handler placement, Shellie worked with the PIs and the building’s occupants to understand their specific research lab needs and moving them in.

Prior to the design phase, an executive building committee was assembled including members from Yale Facilities, the Provost Office, and several other departments. Their mission was to partner with the design team to develop a state-of-the-art science building and liaison between researchers, designers, and architects. The committee was chaired by two women, Professors Vivian Irish and Anna Pyle, two of the top PIs in the building.

During the exterior and interior design phase, other women were also heavily involved. Mariko Masuoka of Pelli Clark Pelli Architects worked on the exterior design. Architect Jill Swensen of Stantec was the principal leader of that project team, coordinating everyone from structural engineers, the landscape design team, to telecom, consultants, and the Pelli group. Margaret Molnar-Ryan, also from Stantec, was the main liaison between Yale Facilities, other contractors involved in the build, and her team. “She was the go-to person on the ground working with us on field issues, punch-list inspections, and other details,” said Sheri.

Fun facts:

  • Over 5000 truckloads of soil and rock were removed from the site to create the footprint for the building.
  • The building is currently about 75% occupied in with 22 lab groups moved in.  
  • March Lecture hall is one of the largest on campus with 483 fixed seats.
  • YSB’s exterior was designed to blend in with its Science Hill neighbors made of brick and limestone.
  • The entire construction of the building took two 2 years and 5 months. (Utility enabling work and Gibbs Lab demolition started 8 months earlier.)