School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Anticipation Builds as Construction of UTD Research Facility Begins

First in an occasional series

RICHARDSON, Texas (Feb. 9, 2005) –The University of Texas at Dallas is expecting.

A great deal of excitement surrounds the construction of its $85 million Natural Science and Engineering Research Building. The project, conceived about a year ago and scheduled for delivery by summer 2006, will provide much-needed space to conduct “next-level” research and mark a major shift in the way researchers work.

Bruce Gnade, Ph.D., a professor of electrical engineering with a joint appointment in chemistry who is overseeing functional aspects of the building, said project developers hope the four-story, 192,000 square-foot space will maximize interdisciplinary interaction.

“From a faculty standpoint, the work will be driven by the type of research you do rather than the department you are in or what discipline you’re in,” Gnade said. “We are trying to break down any barriers that might exist because somebody is in one department versus another department. It’s really driven by research needs.

Devising the plans

“For graduate students and post-docs, there will be open space and cubicles to enhance interaction. There will be a lot of work areas where tables are set up, with the hope that students will gather into the common areas and start discussing work. The whole point of the interaction space is to try to foster interaction among different groups. The interaction will drive more collaboration.

“This concept has been used at the University of California at San Diego and at Cornell University. The architects that are designing the NS&ERB have really been leaders in coming up with ways to get people to interact in the same building,” Gnade said.

Sitting in his office, Gnade leafs through blueprints of different floors of the building showing them from every conceivable angle.

There's a camera over the construction site, he confides, that sends video feeds to the President's Office so that he can monitor the progress. And there are plans to release "a time-lapse video showing the building site from start to finish in a matter of seconds," Gnade said.

“When we first started [discussing] the building we had a group of faculty representing chemistry, biology, engineering, physics, and we were getting their input on what they would like to see in the laboratories. What functionality would they like to see? I am supposed to try to make sure that the design captures all that and that the building is functional and a world-class facility that will help us attract faculty and students,” Gnade said.

Gnade said that an additional $30 million has been earmarked for purchasing laboratory equipment.

"Equipment to go into the building really will be determined by the faculty members," Gnade said.

Located on the southeast corner of Synergy Parkway and Rutford Avenue, the research facility will house laboratories, a clean room, and other areas dedicated to science, according to Gnade.

Colorful, inside and out

Exteriorly, the building will feature stainless steel shingles with an anodized surface. That will give it kind of a green color, Gnade said.

“Slight variations in the thickness of the anodization, and the fact that the color is not really uniform, will allow the building to have a bit of a change in color depending on which shingles you are looking at and also which angle you are looking from. So the color actually changes perceptively to the eye as you walk across the front of the building,” he said.

“It looks really slick, especially when the sun shines on it. It will be much more dramatic than anything we have on campus so far in terms of architecture,” Gnade said.

The U.T. System focuses its attention when it comes to new construction at any of its universities and has a set of standards that must be followed.

“We have several folks from the Office of Facilities Planning and Construction, or OFPC. They take care of all new building construction for the entire U.T. System. Those are the guys who are actually on the job site every day. They have one of the three onsite trailers,” Gnade said.

“Recently there was something wrong that they’ve already caught. The way the concrete was being poured over the parking lot wasn’t quite right. They look over every detail that needs to be done, and they do a great job.”

Environmentally friendly

Borne of science and engineering and looking every bit of both, the building will reflect the latest concepts in modern design.

“It will be a fairly green building just in the way it sets. The west-facing wall has hardly any windows on it. The afternoon sun will only hit this side.

"The glass wall part of the building will get some sunlight, but there are some trees that will help, too. But the worst part of the sun in the summer is all going to be on the back side. So it is positioned to try to be as environmentally friendly as possible,” Gnade said.

Security for the building has been a top priority since its inception.

“To get into certain areas within the building, thumb-print scanners will be used. There will be areas where toxic chemicals can be used. To get into those areas not only will you have to have your Comet Card but all the labs will employ electronic access devices to determine who goes in and out,” Gnade said.

“The other thing that is going to be kind of neat is that the building is going to be really colorful on the inside. It’s not all going to be painted white like this building,” Gnade said. “There are going to be bright colors. The architects are going through different color schemes. But the floor tiles, for instance, are not going to be the same color. They will be bright. Traffic patterns will be designated by changes in colors in the floor. It’s going to be a little more upbeat than a typical laboratory building.”

  • Updated: December 19, 2007