Florida Institute of Oceanography


Layton, FL


Architecture, Interior Design, Planning

The Florida Institute of Oceanography’s Keys Marine Lab offers a unique opportunity for college-level education and researchers studying the only tropical marine ecosystems in the continental United States. While in an ideal location adjacent for field excursions, the existing 1950’s buildings were originally constructed as a fish camp. Vulnerability at grade level is an issue, as are the general conditions of deterioration from enduring many hurricanes and tropical storms and a harsh saltwater environment. In an effort to respond to climate change and mitigate risk from hurricanes, a project has been proposed to demolish the existing buildings and build two new elevated, storm-hardened buildings, that once built, could serve local governments and first responders during storm events. Gresham Smith was brought on to develop the concept that would expand the facility’s capacity to meet the needs of the academic and research community and be an agency hub and community engagement for local, state and federal entities.

Keys Marine Lab classroom

The concept calls for a multi-purpose facility to host teaching labs, research labs, seminar space, conferencing and administrative space as well as a detached 32-bed residential facility that would be designed to withstand Category 5-level hurricanes. Our team worked with stakeholders to understand the need, program and desired performance to develop a concept for the purpose of funding. Our design response incorporates resilient and sustainable features such as onsite energy generation through a solar canopy that also shades the building reducing cooling loads. The buildings were shaped and oriented on the site to promote natural ventilation, taking advantage of prevailing winds using the Venturi Effect. Native and xeriscape plant species are planned to reduce water and energy consumption, while providing shade and reducing ambient air temperatures. The buildings are intended to also use a grey water recycling system to take advantage of the afternoon rains during wet season.