University of Alberta – National Institute for Nanotechnology

Innovation is in the tiniest details

Science + Technology

National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) is one of North America’s few “ultra quiet” buildings and Canada’s flagship for collaborative nanotechnology research in engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, computing science, medicine, and pharmacy. It provides state-of-the-art characterization instruments and clean room facilities that are extremely sensitive to interference from vibration, noise, electromagnetic fields, and environmental changes. NINT is designed to foster collaboration and to bridge the gaps between scientific disciplines.

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Edmonton, AB
229,511 sq ft
University of Alberta and National Research Council

PCL Construction Management Inc.
MCW Hemisphere Ltd.

DIALOG Services

Structural Engineering

NINT is two physically independent buildings: a 7-storey concrete tower and an adjoining 1-storey wing that houses some of the world’s most sensitive high-resolution microscopes.

It’s designed to adapt to change and to foster interaction; two key criteria in attracting national and international collaborators.

These laboratories are highly specialized to keep equipment stabilized and free from swinging changes in the environment including air quality, sound, and even electromagnetic fields.

The stringent requirements for vibration control, and prevention of electromagnetic interference, and other environmental controls made its design very different from ordinary buildings.

Spaces throughout encourage collaboration between disciplines and take advantage of river valley and campus views.

The Team

Engineering innovation can be seen in the approach to the design of the vibration isolation slabs for the characterization suites. First, measurements of ambient vibrations on the NINT project site were taken to identify the “sweet spot”—the specific area with the lowest levels of ambient vibration. The architectural planning evolved so that the most sensitive characterization labs would be located in a separate building wing located at the sweet spot.

The majority of the ground floor is dedicated to the Class 1000 clean room and nanofabrication facility, and the high-end characterization suites. These were all located to avoid vibrations from nearby vehicular traffic and by other occupants working within the building. Aside from the vibration-isolated slabs in the characterization suites, the structure uses slabs on grade in the clean room, and a concrete slab-and-beam system for standard labs in the superstructure of the main building.


2006 Award of MeritConsulting Engineers of Alberta
2008 Award of Excellence – Buildings CategoryCanadian Consulting Engineers