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BROWNSVILLE, TX-The University of Texas at Brownsville is planning to begin construction in April 2009 on a 60,000-sf Biomedical Research Laboratories and Community Sciences complex. In addition to providing additional laboratory and classroom space and a new location for the Allied Health Department, the $33-million project will be the launching point for the university’s life science and research zone.

The complex will be set on 1.7 acres on the west side of 24th Street next to an existing biology building. Although construction won’t begin for several months, the project has earned the 2008 Studio Award from the Texas Society of Architects. Completion is scheduled for 2011.

Tod Stevens, principal of SHW Group LLP of Austin, TX and lead architect, says the specialized design separates laboratory and administrative support space from the Allied Health Department and classroom space. The buildings, designed with natural lighting features, are linked by a large outdoor courtyard. The entire design reflects the University of Texas at Brownsville’s architectural style. “The challenge we had was to fold in some of the character of their campus with the requirements of this lab building,” Stevens says.

Stevens says the design also sets the tone for the university’s future life science and research zone. “What we tried to do with this project was anticipate the types of moves that will happen with subsequent buildings in that life sciences zone,” Stevens tells GlobeSt.com. He says the zone is still only a design on a master plan, but SHW Group has suggested design and infrastructure strategies for the university to advance the initiative.

SHW Group has designed similar concept buildings in Michigan: the Center for Excellence in Bioengineering and Life Sciences at Kettering University in Flint, Life Science Facility at Montcalm Community College in Sydney and Biomedical Technology Center at Schoolcraft College in Livonia.

Stevens says the way in which universities are working to develop biomedical and similar structures on campus is more of a collaborative process than in the past. He says the old-school method of design architecture was to create the project on blueprint, then “throw it over the wall for others to comment on it and change it,” he says.

But, the Biomedical Research Laboratories and Community Sciences complex and similar projects brought all stakeholders to the table from the start. “The process of working together as a team from the start helps us achieve visions in a collaborative way,” Stevens says. “The building actually benefits from it.” The UT Brownsville project team includes SpawGlass Construction Corp., a Houston-based general contractor, and SSP Design LLC of Brownsville as the landscape architect.

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