Kansas University officials are about to take a major step toward making the area near 19th and Iowa streets the research center of campus.
Work will begin soon on a new $40 million, 106,000-square foot research building on west campus that is designed specifically to get scientists from different fields to talk to one another.
"I don't believe we have a building on campus that even begins to address researchers' interaction," said George Wilson, associate vice provost for research.
Most research buildings have labs that line hallways, with offices either inside labs or next to them.
The Multidisciplinary Research Building will be constructed as a triangle, with labs down two hallways and clusters of offices at the end of each of the three stories. The space between the two hallways will be shared research space and gathering areas.
Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Center, said issues such as global warming can only be solved using multidisciplinary techniques.
"If you're just going to be on a campus and communicate by e-mail or telephone, it's not as effective," he said. "It requires a great deal of the human face-to-face exchange that contributes so much to research breakthroughs."
The building, slated for completion in December 2005, is being designed by Cannon Design in St. Louis. It will be built by J.E. Dunn in Kansas City, Mo.
Warren Corman, university architect, said the new building will serve much the same purpose as the labs KU purchased near 15th Street and Wakarusa Drive, which allowed the university to pursue additional federal grants. That space, in the former Oread Labs facility, is now full.
"We're so short of space for research that we can't get some of the federal grants we'd be able to get otherwise," Corman said.
Wilson said the building's occupants have yet to be determined. However, the labs are being built with few permanent walls or specific requirements, which will allow for changes in research over the years.
The building will be funded by bonds that will be paid off by operating funds from the KU Center for Research. For each grant awarded to a KU researcher, a certain percentage is earmarked for administration and facilities for the entire university.
Wilson said the building was put on the fast track because KU is preparing to renegotiate the percentage it receives for administration and facilities from the federal government. Currently, that percentage is 44.5.
Having the building completed by December 2005 will allow KU to claim it spends more of the money on facilities, with hopes of negotiating more money for infrastructure.
"We're excited things are moving ahead," Wilson said. "Although it's kind of a forced move, I think it can have a big impact on recruiting faculty to KU."