Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences
The new advanced forensic center for Harris County was constructed on a 3.2-acre site on the campus of the Texas Medical Center (TMC) in Houston, Texas, across from the existing Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences (IFS) building. IFS offers two distinct forensic services for the Harris County community: the Medical Examiner Service and the Crime Laboratory Service. It also serves jurisdictions that lack the resources to conduct these efforts.
The Master Plan for the Institute of Forensic Sciences includes two phases:
- Phase One is a nine-story, 210,000-square-foot tower that houses approximately 150,000 square feet of laboratory, morgue, administrative, public and teaching/training spaces with unfinished shell space available for
- Phase Two is a four-story building for future expansion to accommodate the growing needs of the Harris County community, as well as the agencies and families served by the Institute.
The nine-story building is a chevron-shaped volume clad with brick panels marked by ribbon windows. The building is designed to maximize flexibility and occupant wellness. It was extremely important to the client to avoid the feeling of monotony and to provide light and variety for occupants—in both the Medical Examiner and the Laboratory areas. The chevron-shaped plan of the building facilitates shorter corridor segments which are flanked by laboratory spaces that enjoy perimeter windows. Non-laboratory functions are concentrated in the splayed corners, allowing for full-height glazing in the stacked breakrooms and conference rooms, leaving rectangular spaces for the laboratories.
The engineering strategies also reinforce goals for energy efficiency and wellness. All of the air-handlers are grouped at the top floor of the building. High flume exhaust fans are positioned at the roof, enhancing exhaust fume dispersion. The combined positions allow an energy exchange process; this reduces the costly energy consumption for required ventilation amounts to maintain safety, comfort levels and secure equipment temperatures in a laboratory building in the Gulf Coast region. All major systems have redundancy included at the N+1 level to allow continued safe operation even if a piece of equipment fails.
The focus on occupant health and best architectural practices for sustainability are tracking the Institute of Forensic Science toward LEED Silver Certification. Among the many sustainable features in the building are natural light and nature views for almost all work spaces; indoor finishes that are low-emitting healthy materials such as no-VOC paints; flexible furniture with adjustable height tables to accommodate active changes in work and study modes; energy efficient HVAC and ventilation systems specifically designed for improved indoor air quality throughout the building; water conservation with low flow fixtures and reduction of irrigation at the native planting areas and use of regional materials.
Learn more about the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.
Page served as design architect and architect of record in collaboration with Crime Lab Design, which served as Forensic Specialists on this project.
Publications + News
- Who Cut The Ribbon? Opening of New Institute of Forensic Sciences
- Sign Here to Celebrate: IFS Topping Out Party