Michigan Technological University :: Great Lakes Research Center

Houghton, MI


MTU envisioned a new campus facility to house aquatic research laboratories and classrooms, and support researchers and students working with Great Lakes biological, chemical, and physical studies. The facility would be designed and equipped in support of instruction, experimental laboratories, and outreach efforts. Students using this facility would learn in an environment providing state-of-the-art technologies and laboratories.

FTCH provided A/E design services throughout the entire project, from initial programming validation to construction administration. FTCH interviewed MTU researchers and staff to validate and update a preliminary program that had been previously developed.  A schematic design was developed, resulting in a 55,000-sf, 4story building that includes 11,500 sf of laboratory space and a docking and marina area for the University’s research vessels. The building is located on a compact site on the lower elevations of campus, on the shore of Portage Lake, immediately adjacent to the waters of the Keweenaw Waterway.

FTCH also developed the programming statement and  schematic design package for funding submittal through the State of Michigan Capital Outlay program. Consultants to FTCH in the project design, included Research Facilities Design of San Diego, California (laboratory design) and M. C. Smith and Associates of Grand Rapids, Michigan (site and landscaping design).

The mechanical design for the facility utilizes a unique system which draws hot water from a heat exchanger/economizer placed in a boiler stack of the nearby campus central heating plant. This heat, which would otherwise be wasted in the boiler stack, is utilized for the majority of heating equipment in the building. Boilers provide higher temperature water for radiant floor heating in selected areas.

The design included the addition of a University data center to the project. The data center houses servers that provide system redundancy to the University, as well as high powered research computing for the facility,  in a configuration permitting future upgrades to a Tier 3 design.


2013 Pyramid Award/Best Project Team -  Washtenaw Contractors Association

2013 Engineering Excellence Merit Award - American Council of Engineering Companies/MI

2013 Architectural Portfolio Outstanding Design/Post-Secondary - American School & University

2012 Design Award of Merit Institutional Category - Association of Licensed Architects

2010 Honor Award/Unbuilt Category - American Institute of Architects/Grand Valley Chapter


  • Title: Michigan technological university
  • Subtitle: Great lakes research center
  • Location: Houghton, mi
  • Postal code: Houghton, michigan
  • Phase: Complete
  • Completion Date: April, 2012

Project Identification Number:


Status: Completed


  • laboratory
  • education

Project Credits:

Worked on this project?

Add it to your portfolio