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New Life Sciences Building is a nexus for modern-age teaching and research

Tuesday, September 11, 2018 - 08:45

UW Biology today opened the doors to a new Life Sciences Building that will transform learning, teaching and research for generations.

The $171 million Life Sciences complex includes seven floors and 207,000 square feet that encourages and makes possible team-oriented science. Designed by Perkins+Will and built by Skanska, the building encompasses a 187,000-square-foot research and teaching facility and a 20,000-square-foot research greenhouse with UW plant collections.

“Our University is committed to excellence in our students’ experiences, teaching and research,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce. “With this new Life Sciences Building, students and faculty will have access to the kind of state-of-the-art research and lab facilities that foster excellence and create new opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration within the life sciences.”

The building has been a long time in the making, said Robert Stacey, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.

“It was in 2007 when the department of biology identified the need for a new building that would enable biology to meet increasing student demand, while also serving as a portal to some of the most rewarding and in-demand jobs in Washington state and beyond,” Stacey said. “Our students aren’t just studying science. They are becoming scientists, educators, biotech researchers, environmental policy leaders, health sciences professionals and conservationists.”

Student demand for a biology degree has more than doubled during the past decade. Today, about 1,200 students major in biology, which is the most popular STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) major in Washington state. Every year, UW Biology grants more than 600 undergraduate degrees, 62 percent of which are awarded to women. Nearly half of all UW undergraduates take introductory biology courses.

“The increase in student demand was definitely a major factor in deciding to pursue a new building,” said Toby Bradshaw, chair of the Department of Biology. “However, the research that is happening in Biology also played a significant role in our decision. UW Biology is one of only a few fully integrated biology programs in the nation. Our faculty tackle pressing challenges through ambitious research, spanning scales from molecules to ecosystems. We take an integrative, collaborative approach to understanding the living world. And we work across campus and beyond, collaborating with some of the best scientists in the world. The open, flexible and modular design will promote unexpected synergies that often result from informal interactions. These types of interactions can lead to new discovery.”

The building is home to 40 principal investigators — faculty who are engaged in collaborative, multidisciplinary research.

The first floor of the building is dedicated to the student experience, with cutting-edge research labs for undergraduates and a large, active learning classroom. The building is designed to LEED Gold certification standards and includes innovative sustainable features such as reusing water for greenhouse irrigation and shading the offices with solar glass fins that also generate electricity, a first-of-its-kind installation. There are also rooftop photovoltaics and several plant walls.

The building includes many exemplary design features:

  • Wood from Douglas fir trees was donated by Leopold-Freeman Forests LLC and installed in the elevator core in such a way that the trunk of each tree was put back exactly as the tree stood in the forest. From top to bottom, the trees were reassembled.
  • Another component of the elevators is the incorporation of bird songs at each floor. UW professor emeritus Sievert Rohwer worked with Mike Webster and Matt Young of Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds (part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) to identify bird species that tend to dwell from treetop to forest floor. The result: A different bird call greets the arrival of the elevator at each floor, including Swainson’s thrush, red-breasted sapsucker, varied thrush, red-breasted nuthatch, western tanager, Townsend’s warbler and olive-sided flycatcher.
  • 90-foot-long wall features an original installation by Seattle artist Claude Zervas.
  • Students, faculty, staff and visitors will be able to enjoy the Evolutionary Grounds Café and a large outdoor deck with views of the region.
  • People will be able to walk through the “tree of life” landscape feature and have plenty of places to mingle and learn about the natural world.

“The Life Sciences Building will be a new landmark on the Burke Gilman Trail, offering a welcoming space and inspiring another generation of biology scholars,” Bradshaw said.

The building is a collaboration of the College of Arts & Sciences, UW Biology Department, Skanska (contractor), Perkins+Will (architect), AEI (mechanical/electrical designer), McKinstry (mechanical subcontractor), and VECA (electrical subcontractor).

Read the full article on UW News.