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Project Highlight

Tiffin University STEAM Addition

This new 18,000 square foot building connects two existing buildings on Tiffin University's campus, creating one large facility. The new addition was designed and constructed with STEAM curriculum in mind, and features a variety of different science laboratories, including an exercise science laboratory with examination rooms, a biology laboratory, a chemistry laboratory, and a flexible laboratory space. The addition also features a two-story atrium with student-friendly space for gathering or studying, general classrooms, and faculty offices.

The project budget allowed for more than just a simple, utilitarian building. SES was able to explore unique lighting solutions, choosing more aesthetic and impactful fixtures to highlight the architectural features. School colors were also incorporated into several fixtures within the atrium, bringing an added level of personalization and interest to the space. In addition to coordinating with the architect, SES also worked alongside the interior designer, maintaining an existing relationship that had begun years ago on a prior university project.


Designed for state-of-the-art education, the facility will benefit the students in Tiffin’s numerous STEAM programs. In addition to the various laboratories, the building features many cutting-edge technologies, such as an anatomage table. Tiffin is one of the few schools in the country to have the six-foot touch-screen display that shares high-resolution images of a three-dimensional anatomy system, allowing students to explore and learn beyond what cadavers can provide, and without chemicals, smells, or recurring facility costs. The new facility also features a DNA sequential analyzer; a gas chromatography–mass spectrometry machine, identical to those used in airport security to detect dangerous items or substances); and a “Bod Pod”, which can analyze the impact of physical activity on a human body.

One of the main features of the building is “The Fold”, a two-story atrium with floor-to-ceiling windows and a regular repeating rhythm of brick structural elements. While beautiful, the space posed several design challenges, as there could be no exposed ductwork, drain piping, or other system elements to disrupt the aesthetic. SES engineers designed enclosures at roof-level, creating a “false roof” to enclose ductwork. It took a great deal of coordination to work through, as various budget issues changed design and lowered the roof, requiring multiple iterations of HVAC design to serve not just the second floor space, but route conditioned air down to the first floor as well. Because of the design of The Fold, what was one continuous space is now separated by structural elements of the design, requiring multiple diffusers, as the sections were not able to share.


Several areas of the atrium called for a solid ceiling, which presented challenges to the routing of return air. The design team worked to create gaps in the ceiling along the wall to provide a return air path. This allowed for a continuous ceiling with no interferences from air grilles or other elements.


The building features fin-tube radiation in lieu of electric heating. Although traditional pedestal-mount fin tube was able to be used in some spaces, other spaces featured floor-to-ceiling glass. This lack of a knee-wall meant that pedestal-mounted fin tube could not be accommodated. For those areas, design transitioned from above-ground fin tube to trench heating, again, working well with the desired aesthetic of the space.

Tiffin University is already considered a leader in STEAM curriculum. This new science center helps set the University even further apart, serving students in pursuit of a variety of degrees, from applied health science and nursing, to forensic and exercise sciences. Students will learn using cutting-edge equipment and the latest technology, helping to shape the world’s future leaders in chemistry, biology, and life sciences.

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