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UNF Dedicates New Biological Sciences Building - Ajax Building Company
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UNF Dedicates New Biological Sciences Building

In an interior courtyard appropriately named Darwin’s Garden, the University of North Florida today formally inaugurated its beautiful new state-of-the-art Biological Sciences Building.

As construction manager, Ajax Building Corporation was delighted to help dedicate the  $39.4 million four-story facility, funded totally by Public Education Capital Outlay Funds.

The Biology Department is housed in the 116,500-square foot building. It includes 17 teaching labs and 28 faculty research labs for aquatics, virology, ecology, genetics, physiology, molecular biology and molecular cell biology as well as the Coastal Biology Flagship Program.

Ajax began construction in July 2010, a year after completing UNF’s award-winning College of Education and Human Services building, which achieved LEED Gold.

The Biological Sciences Building will house all six specialized educational programs within the Department of Biology, including the Coastal Biology Flagship Program.

“No other university in the country has all of these coastal habitats in such close proximity to its campus,” noted UNF President John Delaney.

“With this new innovative Biological Sciences Building, UNF’s geographic location and the current areas of faculty expertise, the Coastal Biology Flagship Program is well on its way to becoming a center of excellence in the study of coastal ecosystems,” he said.

Programs of study leading to medical and dental school, as well as other health professions are also housed in the Department of Biology, plus the new Medical Lab Sciences program.

Undergraduate research opportunities will be greatly expanded with the additional space afforded in these new facilities. A large proportion of undergraduates work in research labs before completion of their undergraduate degree.

The building has four lecture halls, one with 192 seats, a multi-purpose classroom with 48 seats and two multi-purpose 48-seat classrooms with an operable partition enabling them to be combined. The building also has 27 research labs, 17 teaching labs, 37 offices, office support/laboratory support space and a conference room on each floor.

The facility has several points of interests, including an interior courtyard with a green wall; Tree of Life conference room; greenhouse; aquatic teaching labs, a necropsy lab; saltwater storage and prep rooms.

The interior courtyard, named Darwin’s Garden, is planted in native Florida species and will be used as a living botany classes. Five green walls on which flowering vines are growing will provide natural shading to the building.

A first-floor conference room has the “Tree of Life” etched on the glass outside two sides and travels up three stories. It describes the relationship of all life on the planet based on DNA analyses. It also acts as a time capsule because relationships will change as more DNA data is collected.

Six thousand gallons of salt water, provided by and transported from Marineland, is stored and available for aquatic research and teaching labs as well as the greenhouse.

All furniture in these labs is stainless steel to prevent rusting where saltwater is used. A unique necropsy lab allows dissection of large marine animals, such as dolphins, sharks and manatees that are up to 10 feet long and weigh 2,000 pounds.

The greenhouse, located on the roof of the building, is fully automated and designed to hold plant collections for botany labs and experiments requiring natural light.

The full-spectrum glass on the greenhouse is special and allows all wavelengths of light through, including ultraviolet. Various light levels and temperatures can be maintained at all times.

Some of the 17 teaching labs are used for entry-level classes and are oriented around octagonal tables for group work, with prep rooms between labs, allowing the preparation of materials for continuous labs without disturbing active teaching.

Two specialized teaching and five research labs are designed for working with salt water and marine animals. Four research labs have specially designed thick concrete floors for use with special microscopes that can’t tolerate vibrations.

While Ajax was the construction management firm for the project, the building was designed by the Joint Venture of Perkins + Will and the firm of Harvard Jolly.

The facility continues to support the standing commitment and success to deliver new facilities on campus that meet all the requirements for being “green” and sustainable. Once certified later in 2012, this facility will be the seventh “green” building on campus since 2005.

The Coastal Biology Flagship Program at UNF was established in October 2006.

The university’s campus is uniquely situated near the Atlantic Ocean, the St. Johns River and the Intracoastal Waterway. All of these bodies of water and their associated coastal habitats lie within 15 miles of campus, allowing for a broad range of coastal ecosystems to be studied and researched, from oceanic and marine habitats to freshwater lakes and rivers.