University of Texas at El Paso President Diana Natalicio formed an 11-member team in late 2015 to study the optimum use for the $85 million, 150,000-square-foot, five-story interdisciplinary research building that will be constructed at the southeast corner of Sun Bowl Drive and University Avenue.
The project is on schedule to break ground in January 2017 and should be open for the fall 2020 semester.
The group has sent out online surveys and conducted focus groups and one-on-one interviews with approximately 120 campus educators involved in or who have expressed interest in interdisciplinary research. It recently launched its website – idrb.utep.edu – to explain its vision and offer a transparent guide to information the team has gathered so far. It also includes a form to submit comments or suggestions for the building.
The team, in collaboration with the Houston architectural firm of Perkins+Will and San Antonio-based Facility Programming and Consulting, is focused on creating a state-of-the art building capable of tackling the big challenges of today and tomorrow in a novel way on a large scale.
“We’re interested in what it’s going to take to elevate UTEP to the next level in terms of our interdisciplinary research enterprise,” said William Hargrove, Ph.D., director of UTEP’s Center for Environmental Resource Management, and the team’s chair.
Hargrove said there is general excitement among faculty about how the building will look and what it will be able to do. Among the common themes shared by faculty include that the plan should be based on function and not individuals, it should have spaces that promote collaborations, and there should be a focus on shared research resources, or core facilities.
The planning team meets about twice a month to keep up with the project’s ambitious timeline. It wants to have a basic allocation of space for offices, meeting rooms, work areas, and wet and dry labs by the end of the spring 2016 semester.
The design should be completed during the summer. There also are ongoing talks about major pieces of research equipment that the University has and what it needs.