Steel framework complete on URI biotechnology center

Topping out ceremony celebrates end of first phase of construction

KINGSTON, R.I. – November 14, 2007 – The last steel beam was lifted into place today and secured atop what will soon become the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences.

Construction of the $60 million, 140,000 square-foot facility, one of the largest academic building projects in the University’s history, is on budget and on time for completion in the spring of 2009. The building is being funded with both public and private monies: a $50 million state bond approved by the Rhode Island electorate in 2004 and $10 million in private donations, including $1 million from Amgen.

“It’s so exciting to see the tremendous progress being made every day on the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences. It already has quite an impressive presence on campus,” said URI President Robert L. Carothers during a ceremony celebrating the topping out of the structure. “When completed, it will provide our students with a learning environment that will help them become leaders in emerging disciplines, and it will create an environment in which our faculty can conduct research that will lead to important scientific advances.”

“I have been a proponent of this project since I was first elected,” said Governor Donald L. Carcieri.

“In fact, I provided funding for the planning and design of this Center in my very first budget proposal, and I supported this measure on the 2004 ballot. This is among the largest building projects in URI’s history, and it will spur the growth of our biotech industry.”

The Center will house modern classrooms, high-tech specialty research and teaching laboratories, support areas for DNA sequencing, faculty offices, incubator space for technology commercialization, a 100-seat classroom and a two-story, 300-seat auditorium, all to meet the needs of URI’s growing environmental biotechnology and biological sciences programs.

“Our faculty are researching critical issues that demand solutions, and the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences is an essential part of obtaining those solutions,” said Jeff Seemann, dean of the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences and the driving force behind the University’s biotechnology initiative. “It will provide an innovative education for our students, high-tech workforce development, and pioneering research for our state and our citizens.”

The tools of biotechnology are being used in research in nearly a dozen academic departments at URI, from chemistry and pharmacy to plant sciences, oceanography, and mechanical engineering. URI scientists are working to understand the basis for diseases such as cancer, Lyme disease and eastern equine encephalitis; addressing food safety and security issues; developing the next generation of biofuels to reduce dependence on foreign oil; and working to protect the health of Narragansett Bay.

The new Center will include several design features that will qualify it for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, including an energy efficient heating and cooling system, a ‘green’ roof that is partially covered in vegetation to filter pollutants and reduce heating and cooling needs, a storm water treatment feature, and environmentally friendly building materials.

“It has been wonderful to watch the Center emerge from the ground and become a majestic focal point on campus,” added Seemann. “I’m so proud of all the partners who have come together to make this project a reality.”

The building will be the anchor of the North District of URI’s Kingston Campus, which will also be the future home of new buildings for the University’s pharmacy, nursing and chemistry programs.

The architect for the Center is Payette Associates of Boston, and Providence-based Gilbane Building Co. is serving as the construction manager.