AUSTIN-A building to house laboratories for biological sciences is set for the University of Texas at Austin campus. Just days ago, the University of Texas System Board of Regents approved the 165,000-sf building, putting it on track for a March 2002 groundbreaking. It should be ready in late 2004.

It won’t come soon enough for Peter Riley, associate dean for research and facilities in the UT College of Natural Sciences. He tells that researchers have been working in the Experimental Sciences Building, built in the mid-20th century, and are in desperate need of modern facilities.”Without it, a lot of our laboratories would have to shut down,” Riley says. “You just can’t keep going.”

It also will help the school bring and keep researchers. “The new building is a very powerful recruiting tool both for faculty and students,” Riley says.

The new building, which, so far, is saddled with the ungainly name of Biological Sciences/Wet Lab Building, which will have 42 laboratories for biological research. Two of its five stories, however, will not be occupied because the university can’t afford to build out labs on those floors, Riley says.

The project’s cost is $52 million, with $38 million of that dedicated for construction. Vaughn Construction, based in Houston, is the primary contractor. The Houston-based firm Watkins, Hamilton Ross is the architect in association with Overland Partners, based in San Antonio.

The university had planned to renovate the Experimental Sciences Building, but its infrastructure couldn’t accommodate the extensive air handling systems required for wet labs, Riley says. “It would have cost more to renovate than build a new building,” he says. The new building will have three air-handling systems.

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