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July 22, 2010

Plans for Salk Hall addition progress

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An architects’ drawing shows a more pedestrian-friendly Sutherland Drive between the Petersen Events Center at left and the proposed addition to Salk Hall. The $40 million addition, to be built on the R lot behind Salk Hall, will house pharmacy and dental medicine research labs.

University officials plan to break ground this fall on an addition to Salk Hall that will house pharmacy and dental medicine research labs.

Michelle Broido, associate vice chancellor for biomedical research, said of the project: “The building is critical to the needs of both schools as they’re increasing their research productivity and research visibility on a national level.” She said the addition is needed both to accommodate growth in the pharmacy and dental schools and because some of the existing lab space in Salk Hall would be difficult and expensive to bring up to modern standards.

A briefing on the project was on the city planning commission’s July 20 agenda and the plan is expected to be on the agenda for the commission’s Aug. 3 meeting.

Subject to city approvals, the $40 million, six-story Salk Pavilion structure is to be built on the R lot in the rear of the existing building. Construction is expected to take two years.

The addition will include four floors of laboratories: one floor with 6,000 square feet of lab space for dental medicine; 12,000 square feet of lab space on two floors for pharmacy, and another unassigned floor with 6,000 square feet of lab space, said University architect Park Rankin.

The new labs will have an open design, similar to the lab spaces in Pitt’s Biomedical Science Tower 3 and renovated labs in Chevron Science Center. The design aims to be conducive to interaction, with researchers sharing some production areas, Rankin said.

Pharmacy Dean Patricia D. Kroboth said the Salk Pavilion project represents the first new construction for pharmacy programs in the school’s 132-year history. “We are thrilled at the opportunity for faculty and students to work in state-of-the art research space,” she said, noting that the space currently allocated to pharmacy would accommodate 11 of the school’s 21 faculty members who conduct laboratory bench-based research.

William E. Steinhauser, director of facilities and operations in the School of Dental Medicine, said the new research space would accommodate six full-time researchers plus their associated research teams.

“The new building is building excitement as our research is building excitement,” Steinhauser said. “It has offered our research groups in the dental school tremendous growth opportunities.”

The “fortunate dilemma,” as Steinhauser put it, is trying to find space to accommodate new researchers until the new addition is completed.

The Salk Pavilion will include an upper floor for support space and a ground-level floor featuring an atrium and commons area that will connect the pavilion to Salk Hall.

The commons will provide a much-needed space for studying, relaxing and eating, Kroboth said, pointing out that there is no similar gathering space in the existing building. The schools will be seeking private, corporate and foundation funding for the construction of the space, she said.

The main entrance of Salk Pavilion will be on Sutherland Drive.

Rankin said that although a traffic lane must be retained to serve the Petersen Events Center, Sutherland Drive will be converted to a more pedestrian-oriented walkway.

In the rear of Salk Hall, the addition will extend toward Darragh Street to approximately the midpoint of the existing building. “This leaves another opportunity for a future addition,” Rankin said.

He said the project would qualify for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-silver certification with the possibility of attaining LEED gold status. LEED, a set of standards for sustainable construction developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, awards four levels of certification, highest to lowest: platinum, gold, silver and certified.

Contributing to the green designation are the addition’s energy and heat recovery systems, natural lighting and a bioswale planted with native wildflowers and grasses to filter and retain rainwater. Native plants also will be part of the re-landscaped hillside, Rankin said.

Once researchers move into their new labs, the infrastructure of Salk Hall will be updated, Kroboth said, noting that renovation plans have yet to be finalized given that the pavilion will not be ready for occupants for at least two years. Selected laboratory areas are to be renovated for pharmacy research, while other areas may become small classrooms and practice simulation spaces, she said.

Steinhauser said the tentative plan for the dental school’s current Salk Hall research space is to retain existing research areas on the fifth floor. Other spaces that have been deemed inadequate for continued wet lab research could be converted to other uses, such as academic or administrative space, he said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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