UNO’s Biomechanics Research Building – Making the Impossible, Possible

UNO’s Biomechanics Research Building – Making the Impossible, Possible

For the past seven years, the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Biomechanics Research Building and its faculty, staff, and students have continued to make the impossible, possible through their study of the human body in motion in their state-of-the-art-facility.

From giving children the ability to experience life with a 3D printed prosthesis or helping individuals recovering from traumatic injuries and strokes with assistive devices to studying the American cockroach’s movement on various terrain to help make better robots, all of this and so much more important research and work are happening within the Biomechanics Research Building.

Biomechanics Research Building Addition

Schemmer was honored to be part of the team that helped the UNO’s Biomechanics Research Building become a reality by designing the original building in 2013 and the 2019 addition that more than doubled the size of the facility.

Schemmer_UNO Biomechanics Building and Addition_The 30,760 SF addition to the existing facility entailed doubling the number of labs, offices, classrooms, and ancillary spaces while creating a unique public entry to the facility. The new public face incorporated aspects of the original design with a creatively laid out plaza, which further activated and engaged the existing heavily-trafficked public walkway.

Public meeting rooms and gathering areas spill out to the canopied patio, capturing much-needed space on the steep and narrow site.

Supporting the canopy are four freestanding columns, each speaking to one of the Biomechanics Program’s four divisions of research:

  1. Neurophysiology of Gait,
  2. Neuromuscular Control of Balance and Posture,
  3. Robotics and Virtual Reality Rehabilitation and Training, and
  4. Neuromuscular and Sensory Systems Assessment and Rehabilitation.

Schemmer_UNO Biomechanics Building ColumnsThese four pillars are represented as abstractions of physical movement and neuromuscular systems, punched in perforated steel panels creating an ever-changing play of light and shadow as the day progresses. Overlooking the plaza are study, lounge, and library spaces which support the growing program.

“It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know the various individuals and researchers on the Biomechanics team over the last several years as we worked through the design of the addition to their facility. In fact, it became clear very early on that it was critical for the passion and dedication they held for their work to be carried out thoughtfully into all aspects of the project’s design. I was honored to be entrusted with that goal, and feel that the team at Schemmer delivered exceptionally,” said Schemmer’s Michael Sinclair, project architect.  

Specialized Space Configurations and Environments

The addition also incorporated specialized space configurations and environments for items such as:

  • virtual reality equipment
  • 3D metal printer
  • special temperatures for cockroaches

Virtual Reality Equipment

The building addition was designed to accommodate “six degrees of freedom” virtual reality equipment. Biomechanics researchers are able to study human movement in a virtual reality environment. The equipment required specific features of the space, as well as electrical and IT needs.

3D Metal Printer

A member of the faculty performs research related to 3D printing and fabricates inexpensive prosthetics for children using plastics. The building addition has a metal 3D printer that required a specialized environment: mechanical, electrical, fire suppression, and architectural systems were all atypical. The printer is also a large and heavy piece of equipment and the structure addressed this, as well as the path for movement into the room.

Special Temperatures for Cockroaches

Another researcher on staff studies the movement of cockroaches, which are being used as tools to help design robots. The lab spaces for this research required special temperatures, as well as ensuring the insects could not escape from the confines of the lab.

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