San Antonio is about to celebrate the opening of a major new science research building: the STRF, or South Texas Research Facility on the campus of the University of Texas Health Science Center. The 190,000sf state-of-the-art research facility is stretched over only three floors, so the building is low and long: 1000 feet long. If you tipped over the Eiffel Tower...well, you get the idea. UTHSCSA started planning the new lab and office space three years ago when it became clear that their research faculty was growing at a healthy rate, but their facilities were not keeping up. When it is fully occupied, the STRF will house 350 faculty and staff members. Plans are to fill 60% of the building with current faculty and their research teams and to use the remaining space for new recruits, specifically 15 to 20 top scientists and their associates to be brought on board.
The four core programs moving to the STRF are:
The general layout of the facility will look like this:
- The first floor consists of a main entrance and lobby, a large conference room, and other small meeting rooms.
- The second floor will be the general lab floor with lab space, support space, and offices.
- The third floor consists of offices and meeting rooms and will house the Institute for Integration of Medicine and Science (IIMS), a bioinformatics core, and South Texas Technology Management (STTM).
In a Q&A section of the STRF website, researchers are told what to expect in the way of basic laboratory equipment from the building department at the new facility:
A: Each linear equipment room will be provided with an ice machine. Each tissue culture room will be provided with one 6-foot vented biological safety cabinet, one 6-foot non-vented biological safety cabinet, one 4-foot non-vented biological safety cabinet, a carbon dioxide manifold including regulator, and a cylinder rack.
The design of the building is intentionally open and free-flowing to encourage cross-pollination of ideas between researchers from historically distinct but now overlapping fields. According to Paula Shireman, MD, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Vascular/Endovascular Surgery in the School of Medicine, the new approach to research promotes interdisciplinary work as well as bringing basic and clinical scientists to work side-by-side:
“We’re all striving to work together more. It’s happening all across the University now. It is going to be a major focus in research, and the STRF will make it easier to do that,” Shireman says. “The goal is to take people with a passion for a question, with hugely different backgrounds and expertise, and put them together. When you do that, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
We've heard that collegial refrain before, of course, from officials describing the design approach to other new research and medical facilities, though it's no less encouraging for being, apparently, the new dominant paradigm.
If you thought the building looked slightly familiar too, that may be because it's designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, who we last referenced in our blog on the new UCSF Parnassus Campus Dolby stem cell research building, completed in the spring of this year. Where that low-slung building snaked around a steep hillside in San Francisco, this Texas structure is more ranch-style, taking advantage of the open space and excellent opportunities for solar capture on its massive roof. In both cases the buildings do not isolate researchers in walled-off labs stacked on top of each other. The horizontality means all of the lab space is on one floor, with very few walls but many gathering spaces to promote interaction and professional dialogue.
Biotechnology Calendar Inc. has made a business of promoting professional dialogue between life science researchers and laboratory equipment suppliers for the past 18 years. Join us for our 9th BioResearch Product Faire networking event in San Antonio on the UTHSC campus this November 3, 2011.
For more information on UTHSC funding and this BCI event, click here: