News / 4.27.17

Throwback Thursday – Bell Laboratories

Featured an energy efficient design including two large interior atriums

Today’s Epstein Throwback Thursday takes us back to June, 1982 for the opening of the four-story, 350,000 square foot office and electronic research facility in Naperville, Illinois for Bell Laboratories. For this office/R&D building located on an 18-acre site Epstein served as the architect and full-service engineer working with the Alter Group, who were the developers, and the contractor, Jon Construction.


Constructed in a 14-month fast-track method, this Bell Laboratories building featured an energy efficient design including two large interior atriums which provided natural light to the office & communal space. These atriums housed a library as well as a cafeteria/dining area and also provided workstation window views without the heat loss/solar gain associated with exterior windows.


This building also featured an economic mechanical system that allowed for off-hour operation in order to substantially decrease operating costs. In addition, the Epstein engineered HVAC system was designed to allow for the use of outdoor fresh air during mild conditions, as well as an air distribution system that through variable volume registers provided individual heating and cooling zones throughout each floor.

The building's exterior façade featured pre-cast concrete with ribbon windows of aquamarine solar reflective glass. A dramatic glass vestibule was also designed and functioned as the north entrance of the building. This vestibule has a triangular shape which was created in part by a sloping ceiling, which slants from 27 feet at its highest to seven feet at its outermost point, of solar reflective glass supported by a tubular space frame.


Epstein designers and engineers were challenged in properly lighting the vestibule to highlight the space frame while additionally providing good light at the floor level. The ultimate solution was to direct lighting onto the space frame and use the reflective quality of the glass ceiling to light the floor.  The end result of Epstein’s design was creating a brightly lit, glass entrance that also provides a strong nighttime architectural feature.


This project in ’83 received an Award of Excellence for Design from Society of American Registered Architects as well as an Award of Merit from the Chicago Lighting Institute.

Today, this building, which is located at 1200 E. Warrenville Road, is now home to the BMO Harris Bank Operations Center.

And lastly, you may have notice this building’s sloping atrium bears a similar appearance, albeit to a much smaller scale, to the dramatic diamond shape design of the Chicago’s iconic Crain’s Communications Center. Well there’s a reason for that – both buildings were designed by the same individual at Epstein – Sheldon Schlegman.