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Biosciences Building open to biology classes next semester


A classroom awaits students in the Bioscience Building on Sept. 16.

After two years of construction and $95 million, Central Michigan University is ready to open its largest capital project in history.

On Thursday, Sept. 22, the university will host a grand opening for the newly-completed Biosciences Building. In January 2017, the 169,000 square-foot facility will house faculty from the biology department, and offer classes to students studying the biological sciences.

“My office looked out over what has for years been a construction site,” said College of Science and Engineering Dean Ian Davison. “It’s fulfilling to have seen it gradually rise from the mud and become a new science building.”

The new facility features a variety of innovations designed to make it more efficient for education, including:

  • Lab space for students and faculty
  • Classrooms designed for hands-on learning
  • Microscopic imaging area
  • Two aquariums and an herbarium
  • Two living walls to show off plant life
  • Study spaces

The project was funded with $65 million from the university from reserves, issuance of bonds and private donations, Davison said. The other $30 million was allocated from the state of Michigan.

Davison said research was a priority in designing the new building.

“In this college, and others, we emphasize the involvement of both graduate and undergraduate students in research — that’s very important for us,” Davison said. “We want students to work on cutting-edge projects that will be published in top scientific journals and produce meaningful results.”

Biology professor Joanne Dannenhoffer has taught in Brooks Hall, for years. She said it was a challenge carving out teaching space in the 30-year-old building, and that it’s time for an improvement.

“There’s just item, after item, after item that Brooks doesn’t have. This new building is going to be a modern, high tech environment that is going to be supportive of research,” she said.

Biology professor Brad Swanson agreed.

“It’s a night and day difference from Brooks. Everything is new, everything works and it’s just a big improvement. I think the students are going to love it. It’s an incredibly student friendly space and I hope that they’ll use it as intended.”

Allison Kneisel, a second year graduate student, said the new building will allow her to more easily collaborate with professors and students when working on research.

“There’s an impressive factor about it,” said the Traverse City native. “You walk in and you have a living wall and two aquariums and you can remind students that biology is a living thing and not just stuffy, dusty, buildings.”

Jessica Kosiara, a biology lab research tech from Alpena, is studying a species of yellow perch from the Great Lakes. She said the new building will be a huge improvement for all students.

“It’s really exciting because we’ll have a state-of-the-art facility, and there’s a lot of really exciting opportunities for everyone,” said the third year graduate student.

Steve Lawrence has worked as the Associate Vice President of Facilities Management for 13 years. He said the Biosciences Building is the largest project he’s been involved with, includes several design elements that make it more environmentally friendly than previous buildings.

Many of the construction materials were sourced locally to prevent transportation energy costs, Lawrence said. Also, more than 78 percent of materials left over from the construction process were recycled, Lawrence said.

Other sustainable elements in the design include:

  • Fritted glass that reduces energy consumption for air conditioning
  • Sensors for controlling lights and AC equipment
  • A vegetative roof to reduce heat gain
  • Low flow plumbing fixtures to reduce water usage

The university has applied the Biosciences Building for LEED certification — a rating system that awards building projects that focus on sustainability. Lawrence said the project will receive LEED Gold certification, the second highest that a project can be awarded.

Lawrence is retiring at the end of September and said this is the last big project he’ll be working on.

“I’m looking forward to retirement, and the bioscience building is a great accomplishment and it’s a great way to end my career.”

Davison said classes will still be held at Brooks, and discussion is going to start about how to improve Brooks Hall for future use. He said even with the Biosciences Building, CMU’s bioscience research is still lagging but added, the building project is a “quantum leap forward in terms of quantity and quality.”

“This building is a means to an end, and the end is to provide the best education for our students,” Davison said. “We’ll be able to provide even better opportunities because of this new building and that’s really the exciting part.”