March 2, 2006

WSU looks to ramp up biotech development

  • Pullman master plan features a 6-building research complex
    LMN Architects


    Biotech research facilities in the Northwest are often thought to be limited to the Puget Sound region, including South Lake Union, the University of Washington and other locations in the greater Seattle area.

    Lesser known but equally important are facilities and programs across Washington, such as those planned and developed by Washington State University.

    In 2001 WSU undertook a universitywide strategic planning process. An important outcome the process was the school's decision to put biotechnology at the top of its research priority list. As a result, in 2002, an ambitious program was defined for WSU's Pullman campus that embraces multiple areas of research.

    6-building complex

    Image courtesy of LMN
    WSU's $67 million biotechnology and life sciences building is the second phase of a six-building research complex in Pullman. The project, which begins construction in May, will house the university's new Center for Integrated Biotechnology. Lydig Construction is the general contractor.

    The physical accommodation of this ambitious biotechnology and life sciences research program is based on the Research and Education Complex master plan prepared by LMN Architects.

    The heart of this interdisciplinary science facility complex is a core of six research buildings, each providing approximately 125,000 square feet of laboratory, office and educational area.

    When completed, the complex will total nearly 750,000 square feet, with major individual buildings linked by an all-weather connecting spine, essentially creating a single facility that houses multidisciplinary biotechnology research.

    The Plant Biosciences Building, the first in the complex to be built, was completed in 2005. The second, the Biotechnology/Life Sciences Building, is currently under design for occupancy in 2008. Future buildings in the complex will house programs in agriculture, veterinary medicine and other research disciplines embraced by the life sciences research initiative.

    The Biotechnology/Life Sciences Building will house three major programs:

    — The School of Molecular Biosciences, the first component of the building's research program, is a merger of three WSU departments: biochemistry, microbiology and genetics and cell biology. The school currently has 30 faculty, 21 of which have laboratories supported by federal research funds.

    — The Center for Integrated Biotechnology, a universitywide research unit that involves 22 departments and seven different colleges, engages 162 independent research faculty throughout the university.

    — The Center for Reproductive Biology, a research unit between WSU and the University of Idaho, integrates 16 departments and seven colleges between the two universities, and has 75 faculty and over 200 trainees and staff. The internationally recognized center is one of the largest centers of reproductive biology in the country.

    Sustainable architecture

    To accommodate these programs, the Biotechnology/Life Sciences Building will include a mix of research laboratories, lab support spaces, core lab facilities, faculty and administrative offices and other related support spaces.

    Other spaces include a community gallery, vivarium and central loading dock — all of which will serve the entire multibuilding master plan.

    The community gallery will help connect the buildings of the Research and Education Complex, including a below-grade service corridor and an above-grade, two-level public circulation pathway that will eventually connect other buildings of the complex to the north and south.

    This two-level space is accessed by a grand stairway that serves all above-grade floors and provides orienting views to the campus and landscape beyond.

    The design of the building recognizes sustainable architecture strategies in its siting and orientation, which provides high-quality north-facing laboratories with high ceilings and large windows to allow the generous use of daylighting. South-facing offices employ heat gain-reducing glazing and sun screening to optimize comfort and minimize reliance on air conditioning and artificial lighting.

    The building's HVAC system utilizes indirect evaporative cooling, which capitalizes on unique aspects of the Pullman microclimate and further minimizes energy consumption.

    While the above facilities are planned and developed for the main WSU campus, they are an integral part of the larger biotechnology research vision that WSU has for satellite locations throughout the state.

    Richland and Spokane labs

    In Richland, WSU is working with Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratories to develop a $26 million bioproducts, science and engineering laboratory building — a 57,000-square-foot research and instructional facility.

    At WSU's Spokane campus, LMN is working with Integrus Architects to design the $30 million, 82,000-square-foot Intercollegiate College of Nursing Building, which includes health sciences research laboratories in its broader program.

    Both the Richland and Spokane facilities will incorporate a rich mix of biotechnology research laboratories, distance education studios, general classrooms, computer labs and offices — all part of the strategic plan of WSU to enrich the universitywide programs for biotechnology-related research and education.

    Achieving a state-based biotechnology research revolution will require strategies that reach beyond metropolitan Seattle and embrace industries and institutions statewide.

    This goal will require committed research personnel, public and private industries and institutions, and creative planning and design professionals — all working together to realize the full potential of biotechnology programs and the facilities that house them.

    George Shaw, partner at LMN Architects, is the project partner-in-charge for the WSU Research and Education Complex master plan, the Biotechnology/Life Sciences Building and the Intercollegiate College of Nursing Building.

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