New research building

Open-design facility to help bridge traditional boundaries

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Planners broke ground on the $75 million facility this summer with a June 2015 target date for completion.

BY Jim Dryden

Washington University in St. Louis is constructing an energy-efficient, multistory building dedicated to interdisciplinary research on some of the most complex problems in human biology.

Positioned along McKinley Avenue just west of Taylor Avenue, the building eventually will house 138,000 square feet of highly flexible, open laboratories. The building replaces a surface parking lot on the site.

“These are economically challenging times for the support of science, yet the opportunities for innovation and advances never have been greater for those institutions that continue to invest in the future.” — Larry J. Shapiro, MD

“We envision this new research building as another key, strategic improvement to our campus that will house cutting-edge research labs devoted to advancing innovation and human health, and we are committed to creating spaces that facilitate this important work and that position us to compete successfully for future research support,” said Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “These are economically challenging times for the support of science, yet the opportunities for innovation and advances never have been greater for those institutions that continue to invest in the future.”

Planners broke ground on the $75 million facility this summer with a June 2015 target date for completion.

Researchers slated to work in the building include those involved in genetics, genomics and regenerative biology. The building will house labs from the Department of Genetics, the Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology (the first BioMed 21 interdisciplinary center, established in 2004), the Department of Medicine and the Department of Developmental Biology.

The new building adds much-needed laboratory space to the campus. The BJC Institute of Health Building, completed in 2010, added 240,000 square feet of research space, but that space is now occupied. The new building also replaces older, less efficient research space with new, highly flexible space that can accommodate new research teams and interdisciplinary research.

“This new state-of-the-art facility will help fulfill the vision of our BioMed 21 plan by bringing together groups of investigators with the breadth of combined expertise and resources needed to solve complex problems,” said Jeffrey D. Milbrandt, MD, PhD, the James S. McDonnell Professor and head of the Department of Genetics. “This building will help us bridge traditional disciplinary boundaries from computer science to genomics to clinical activities, and together help form a scientific community engaged in using cutting-edge technologies to make discoveries that provide the foundation for the development of new medical treatments.”

Building a new, efficient facility also will save money, compared with operating and upgrading antiquated labs and retrofitting office space for conducting the laboratory-based research that will be housed there. Laboratory space in the building will help replace the 46,000 square feet of laboratory research space formerly in the Yalem building and will help to consolidate most Department of Genetics faculty into a single location closer to important collaborators from other departments. Planning began in 2009 as part of a campuswide program to accommodate new projects.

“The open lab design of the new research building provides a wonderful opportunity for us to jointly recruit faculty with preclinical departments,” said Victoria J. Fraser, MD, the Adolphus Busch Professor and head of the Department of Medicine. “We can embed faculty from medicine with investigators from genetics, developmental biology, genome sciences and systems biology, and we expect that significant scientific synergies will evolve by encouraging research interactions between clinical and preclinical departments.”

As School of Medicine scientists attempt to bring complex discoveries to the bedside more quickly, the school’s administration has been investing in research-space upgrades in older buildings, as well as in new construction that can promote and support interdisciplinary team science, rapid changes in scientific methods and techniques and the explosion of advances in genetic and genomic research.

“This building is being designed in ways that will help catalyze innovative research in areas related to understanding how our human genetic variation contributes to our metabolic and physiologic differences at various stages of development,” said Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and director of the Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology.

“Understanding the strengths that exist at Washington University, leveraging them in bold and decisive ways, marrying them to opportunities as they emerge and thoughtfully encouraging faculty and students from diverse disciplinary interests to assemble together and pursue answers to problems they otherwise would not be able to tackle provides us with great opportunities, including crafting new educational programs and expanding our students’ ability to engage in global health challenges,” he said.

The architectural firm chosen to design the new building is Boston-based Goody Clancy, in association with St. Louis-based Christner Inc. Clayco is the building’s general contractor.

The architects will design the building for LEED Silver certification, which is awarded to structures that reduce waste, conserve energy and water, are healthier and safer for occupants and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The building’s planners are anticipating trends in the design of research laboratories and setting up those spaces so they can evolve to meet future needs.

Christner Inc. also has been involved in designing other buildings at Washington University Medical Center, including the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College and the 12-story, 322,000-square-foot Barnes-Jewish Center for Outpatient Health. 

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