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Sense of Place

Higher ed Biosciences Building at Central Michigan University

Rapid growth of college enrollment and research at CMU lead to construction project
University Business, February 2017
  • LET THERE BE LIGHT—Designed to LEED-Gold standards, the higher ed building’s central light well and numerous exterior windows increase natural light in the building.
  • LET THERE BE LIFE—A living wall and a partial green roof enhance the college facility’s “biofriendly” atmosphere.

The largest capital project in Central Michigan University’s history, this new four-story, 170,000-square-foot Biosciences Building is a science showcase—right down to the numerous glass-walled labs that facilitate observation of ongoing research.

The structure, which opened for research work upon completion in September 2016, welcomed a full regimen of classes in January.

  • CHALLENGE: Enrollment and research have grown rapidly at CMU in the past few years. Accordingly, the school looked to upgrade from Brooks Hall, the longtime home of multiple science disciplines that opened in 1965.

“We had basically run out of the quality of space needed for modern biological research and education programs,” says Ian Davison, dean of the college of science and engineering.

“We put a high emphasis on involving students, graduate and undergraduate, in hands-on faculty research, and that was clearly being limited.”

  • SOLUTION: The new facility features an active learning classroom for up to 112 students, instructional labs with associated prep labs, 106 lab benches and additional 47 specialty lab rooms. Besides an open-plan lab design—allowing multiple departments to collaborate—there are other student meeting spaces and 65 faculty and staff offices as well.

To support science faculty who study the nearby Great Lakes, the facility has a new vivarium, housing fish and various aquatic organisms. Other new additions include a biosafety-level-three lab for study of infectious diseases, and an imaging center for electron microscopes, designed with its own floor to minimize vibrations.

Some basic-level classes are also being taught in the new building in an effort to engage first-year students in the biosciences.

“There’s certainly a level of excitement and buzz about the building in the student body,” says Davison. “So far it’s been a showcase for our scientific programs, and we anticipate that to continue.”

  • COMPLETED: September 2016
  • COST: $95 million
  • PROJECT TEAM: Architect: Stantec (Detroit); construction manager: Clark Construction (Detroit)

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