WSU was awarded $52.6 million in the state of Washington’s 2021 – 23 capital budget for construction of the Sciences Building, an instructional and research facility that will provide cutting-edge learning opportunities for students in STEM disciplines. The total cost of the building—including predesign, design and construction—will be $57.1 million. The project will break ground in November. It is expected to open in 2023.
When it was founded in 1989, WSU Vancouver served only upper-division students. Since the addition of freshman and sophomore students in 2006, the demand for required lab sciences has exploded. Over the years, one space on campus was remodeled to add a teaching lab, but no other suitable spaces are available. Growth at WSU Vancouver has pushed basic wet labs supporting biology, chemistry and physics over capacity. Scheduling lab courses has become a real puzzle that affects a broad swath of students in high-demand STEM fields.
The Sciences Building will house lab space for programming in biology and chemistry, serving general educational needs for all students and foundational courses for an array of STEM degrees. It will also house basic, translational, applied and clinical health programs, including nursing, neuroscience, psychology, molecular biology and medicine. WSU Vancouver will engage in a $10 million fundraising effort to support the addition of a greenhouse.
Designed with purpose
The Sciences Building will be much more than walls and windows. It is designed to be a welcoming and connecting space for the whole campus community.
“The design team is working to integrate our location and who we are into every aspect of their work,” said Christine Portfors, vice chancellor for research and graduate education. Some of the design is inspired by Mount St. Helens, which will be in view from many areas of the building. Colors and textures used inside and out will reflect the mountain and natural surroundings.
Portfors said the project involves disciplines beyond the sciences. “The history department is helping us understand the history of life sciences and connect with who we are, including Native people and People of Color. They are also helping us identify important figures in life sciences in the region through time. The fine arts department will depict some of those famous scientists through art,” she said.
Portfors said the Sciences Building was designed around three core ideas, “Be creative. Be sustainable. Be equity focused.” More specifically, the building is designed to adhere to the following principles that were identified by faculty, staff, students and community members in the predesign phase of the building:
- Celebrate the beauty of this place. The location and organization of WSU Vancouver offers incredible views and access to nature. The Sciences Building will reinforce and celebrate the opportunities offered by this unique setting.
- Forge an engine of opportunity. WSU Vancouver celebrates the diversity of its faculty, staff and student body. The Sciences Building will foster the continued recruitment and retention of faculty, staff and students of color as well as people from low-income backgrounds, with disabilities, veterans and first-generation students and will promote a community of equity for all populations. Through art and building expression, WSU Vancouver will honor the history of the land and create an inclusive space where individuals from all social identities will feel a sense of belonging and opportunity to thrive.
- Work for everyone. The Sciences Building will provide universally accessible campus and building spaces that are welcoming, safe and gender inclusive. WSU Vancouver will prioritize health and wellness by using nontoxic building materials and create vibrant spaces with immediate access to daylight and views.
- Connect and learn. The Sciences Building will offer a diversity of space types including quiet spaces for introspection and study, and public gathering areas for social engagement and group work. The Sciences Building will provide access to comfortable seating and adequate power in all spaces.
- Adapt. Flexible storage, varied work environments, accessible technology and movable furniture will provide for “hackable” spaces that students and faculty can shape to their needs. The Sciences Building will include infrastructure for labs and teaching spaces that can be easily modified for the continued evolution of technology and study.
- Foster connection. The Sciences Building will be a place that connects faculty, graduate and undergraduate students to cultivate synergy and build community. It will provide a place to share stories and celebrate diversity in all its forms.