Projects

N.I.S.T. (National Institute of Technology) - Boulder, CO (USA)

A high-precision environment paved with Italian ceramic

Sun, snow and desert. Time, atoms, force, distance and temperature. Here they measure everything, with the highest precision.
Author
Virginio Briatore
Photos
Kurt Johnson Photography
Surfaces
CAESAR
Distributor
RBC Tile & Stone
Year of completion
2012

Inaugurated in 2012 on the campus of Boulder University in Colorado, the Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML) is the flagship of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Every American knows the NIST, because it broadcasts weather forecasts throughout North America on a daily basis; so if the NIST is a legend, the new Measurement Laboratory is its prophet!
Built at a cost of 61 million dollars, the laboratory was designed by HDR Architecture Inc., a firm of architects founded in Omaha, Nebraska in 1917, which now operates 185 sites worldwide and employs over 8000 people. Specialising in public-interest projects, HDR was the world’s top-ranked developer of hospital architecture in 2012, and took 11th place in the top 500 engineering/architecture companies.
The work team that developed the new building at Boulder was led by Aneetha McLellan, Head of Interior Architecture at HDR Architecture Inc., which she joined 16 years ago and became Associate Vice President of four years ago, on the strength of her talent and tenacity.
The new building was needed because the previous measurement centre was running short of space, especially for the electrical measurements undertaken by the Quantum Electronics and Photonics divisions, and because new fields of specialisation, such as nanotechnology, require particular precautions and safeguards.
The architects and scientists therefore came up with plans based on a central spine, as long as two football fields, and known as the pedestrian walkway. The laboratories are located on one side of this spine, while the offices, distributed over two storeys, occupy the other. The laboratories are confined to the ground floor and are split into two large blocks: the measurement laboratories and the large sterile room. A conference room completes the layout and serves as the main entrance to the building.
The dry, windy summers and cold, snowy winters made the choice of materials a difficult one, especially for the flooring. The designers solved the problem in the end by establishing a clear hierarchy of priorities: “We wanted high-tech styling combined with dependable, unequivocal quality. With this in mind, porcelain tile was the obvious choice, so we set to work looking for a high-performance product with a high level of design input, that would meet all our practical and stylistic requirements.” And the architects opted for the Feel series by Ceramiche Caesar, in the colours Colonial, Colonial Steel, Purple, Purple Steel and Live.
In this temple of precision measurement, public enemy number one is dust, along with the microorganisms that congregate on skin and surfaces. For this reason, special care was taken to create controlled-air ante-chambers, with state-of-the-art extractor systems, in which to clean and filter everyone and everything prior to entry to the large sterile room.
It’s gratifying to see that in a scientific institution – which represents the latest state of the art in precision measurement worldwide and owns about 60 of the world’s most advanced measuring instruments – the staff work and walk every day, calmly and precisely, on a product designed and manufactured in Italy.

Tiles
Caesar, Feel series
Type
porcelain stoneware
Sizes
2,1x60 - 11,7x60 - 30x60 - 60x60 cm
Colours
Colonial, Colonial Steel, Purple, Purple Steel, Live
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,05%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): conforme
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): ≤ 145 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): conforme
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): conforme
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): ≥ 47 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): conforme
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): conforme
Certifications and awards
ECOLABEL
LEED
ISO 14001
NF UPEC
SASO
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