Schematic designs are nearly complete for a premier science facility that will combine all the departments of the Science Division and transform the entire campus. The floor plans reflect the thoughtful input—and long-held dreams—of faculty who envision how they will teach in the future and address the need for graduates with STEM educations.
Plans for three floors above ground and a lower level totaling 125,000 square feet will allow the departments of biology, chemistry, physics, math, psychology and computer science to collaborate, teach and research in one facility. Some disciplines, like chemistry and physics, would share labs when their needs allow for a common facility.
“As we planned the space, we wanted to make sure that no room stands empty,” explains Jeff Bjorklund, professor of chemistry and the Science Division representative in the planning process. The planning firm Research Facilities Design (RFD) and architects Hollabird & Root have met extensively with faculty to understand how the allotted square footage will fulfill their needs for student interaction, teaching, research and collegial communication. “What was really important was to consider adjacencies that maximize the efficiency in the building design and flow,” says Brjorklund.
The design of the new facility will reflect the College’s unique needs, he emphasized, and will include gathering spaces of different sizes for informal collaboration, student study spaces and campus events.
Representatives from North Central’s Information Technology Services have consulted on technology design to ensure the building accommodates those needs today and well into the future.
Labs have been uniquely designed to house teaching and/or research. Teaching labs will incorporate the equipment needs of specific disciplines, while the design of the research labs integrates across disciplines and encourages collaboration. The labs designed specifically for molecular and organismal research will be used by biology, biochemistry and chemistry faculty and students. The lab space for anatomy and physiology will be used by biology, neuroscience and health and physical education. A neuroscience lab will combine research among students and faculty in biology and psychology.
Spaces to collaborate with faculty away from classrooms and labs are incorporated throughout the plans. “Students want to study in the building because they want to be close to faculty to ask questions,” Bjorklund explains. Classrooms will be used for non-science instruction as well. The current program includes four 30-person classrooms, six 40-person classrooms and an auditorium that could accommodate 120 people.
There will be 14 teaching labs, nine research labs and a suite of five rooms for psychological research. Placement of each lab, classroom and office is crucial during the next phase of design development—when many of the details, including the exterior look of the building, are locked in place.
Fundraising for the $60 million science center and other future needs of North Central College is continuing, says Rick Spencer, vice president for institutional advancement. “With funding in place, we could break ground in June 2015 so the building is ready for students in 2017.”