Work toward MSUB science building upgrade continues

2013-11-21T07:45:00Z 2014-07-10T18:33:11Z Work toward MSUB science building upgrade continuesBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Montana State University Billings officials have released conceptual drawings of a planned $15 million renovation of its 66-year-old Sciences Building, providing a first glimpse of what the building could look like.

The four hand-drawn images, provided by Dowling Studio Architects of Helena, give a plan of each of the building's three floors and a rough sketch of its south elevation.

"At this point, what we're trying to create is a very flexible, student-friendly atmosphere," said Jason McGimpsey, MSUB facilities director. "We're trying to create a concept of science on display."

The upgrade is the result of action from the state Legislature, which has promised to provide $10 million to the project if MSUB can raise $5 million. The building will house the biology and physical science department and the College of Allied Health Professionals.

McGimpsey said it provides much-needed upgrades and redesigns through the entire building, which includes labs that haven't been updated since the 1970s.

The building will be renamed Yellowstone Hall.

Included in the drawings are plans for about 20 labs, lots of open space, shared spaces to encourage collaboration between departments, plenty of large windows and an outdoor studio.

The plan calls for open study areas flanking the research labs, as well as windows from main walkways looking into the labs.

"We want to create a collaborative environment," he said. "We're hoping researchers can cross-pollinate and spark some interaction between people."

The building is also likely to be one of the first projects completed under new state High Performance Building standards. McGimpsey said that program calls for new state projects appointed through the long range building plan with a cost of $5 million or more to achieve silver LEED certification, or an equivalent certification elsewhere.

As early design work on the building moves forward, the MSUB Foundation is gearing up for an intensive $5 million fundraising effort to fulfill the university's obligations in the deal.

Marilynn Miller, the foundation's president and CEO, said they're waiting on schematic designs, which are more detailed and should be ready by the end of the year, with plans to hit the ground running in January.

"We're waiting for a very clear depiction of what that new building is going to be," she said. "All of us want to see what's around the corner, what's on the horizon. What's going to happen with this building that's going to make such a dramatic difference?"

Having the schematics available to show potential donors also allows fundraisers to show them exactly where their money could go.

The foundation has already approached a small number of key supporters and is working to educate the public on what's going on.

"People understand the dire need for the new building," Miller said. "That's something that is accepted and understood, that the building is woefully inadequate."

So far, she said, the community response has been positive, something the foundation hopes carries across to donors.

"I believe the people of Billings will be delighted with the beauty that this building is going to add to the community," Miller said. "The view from Poly (Drive) will be spectacular. In addition to being highly functional, it is going to be beautiful. It is going to grace."

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