This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Building a vision of excellence

The grand opening of Davis Hall is scheduled for May 10. Photo: DOUGLAS LEVERE

  • “Every element in our comprehensive plan is about investing in our people—our students, our faculty, our staff and our communities.”

    President Satish K. Tripathi
Published: March 29, 2012

By the time the leaves begin to change color in the fall, UB will have undergone a transformation unprecedented in its history, the scope of which is noteworthy compared to universities nationwide.

Beginning with the opening of William R. Greiner Residence Hall last August and continuing through this September, UB will have opened four major new buildings across its three campuses, in addition to completing several other projects, such as the innovative UB Solar Strand at the Flint Road entrance to the North Campus.

In dollar amounts, that translates to more than $300 million in construction during this one-year span alone. It’s all part of the university’s long-range vision of excellence, a mission that, in President Satish K. Tripathi’s words, includes “raising UB’s international prominence, enhancing the student experience and bolstering UB’s faculty with still more world-class researchers and teachers.”

“We are not just planning for the future. We are actively realizing our vision,” says Tripathi. “The UB landscape is changing every day, on all three campus centers. Even in an era of economic challenges, UB has been able to achieve progress that is remarkable in a national context: four major buildings online in a span of 12 months, along with the solar array and major overhauls of student housing and historic campus buildings.”

The current projects, combined with other plans in the pipeline—including a new $375 million home for the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus in downtown Buffalo—bring UB’s construction investment closer to $1 billion.

Tripathi pointed out the impact all of this will have on students, faculty, staff and visitors. “While the new building taking place on all three campuses is one of the most visible aspects of this progress, what’s really important is the people who will live, learn and work in these buildings,” Tripathi notes. “Every element in our comprehensive plan is about investing in our people—our students, our faculty, our staff and our communities.”

UB’s building boom is significant not just for the volume of work occurring, but because it comes at a time when universities across the U.S. are looking to scale back or forgo their building plans.

“Certainly for UB, since (the North Campus) was built out in the 1980s, there’s been more construction activity now than we’ve experienced in a long time. In these down times, it’s probably a lot of construction for any campus,” says Robert G. Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.

Moreover, UB’s building progress distinguishes the university as a national leader in campus sustainability. Five of the new additions at UB are designed to meet U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

UB has achieved all of this using multiple funding sources and forging private partnerships, such as its collaboration with Kaleida Health on the Clinical and Translational Research Center and the Gates Vascular Institute on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Philanthropic efforts also have played a significant role in UB’s ability to secure funding for new construction—a testament to the university’s immense impact in the community.

A year’s worth of major openings

Here’s a chronological look at 12 months of UB’s building success:

  • Aug. 19, 2011: William R. Greiner Residence Hall opens. The $57 million, 198,000-square-foot project blends residential, academic and recreational spaces in a “learning landscape.” Its architecture follows the principles of “universal design,” meaning the building and its amenities are designed to be accessible to people with diverse abilities. The building is the first in Western New York designed to meet the LEED “Gold” standard.
  • April 23: Official opening of the UB Solar Strand, a 3,200-panel solar array designed by world-renowned landscape architect Walter Hood and meant to serve as a fusion of art and science. A key partner in this project has been the New York Power Authority, which is funding the Solar Strand and overseeing its construction with UB.
  • May 10: Official opening of Barbara and Jack Davis Hall. A significant investment on the North Campus, this $61-million, LEED Gold designed facility houses 130,000 square feet of laboratory and classroom space for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Designed by Chicago-based Perkins + Will, Davis Hall boasts a 5,000-square-foot clean room and a “cybertorium” equipped with sophisticated communication devices for interactive classes, multimedia presentations and video conferences. Significant funding for the project was provided by well-known industrialist Jack Davis, a 1955 graduate of UB’s engineering school.

  • May 24: Ribbon cutting for the Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. This project brings together under one roof both the Gates Vascular Institute, which merges Kaleida’s cardiac, stroke and vascular operations and an expanded emergency department, with UB’s CTRC, a 170,000-square-foot research center. A major tenant of the CTRC is the Jacobs Institute, which will support research and clinical collaboration on the causes, treatment and prevention of heart and vascular diseases.

The CTRC will help position UB as a leader in building a thriving life sciences economy in the region. In addition to the May ribbon cutting, the CTRC and Kaleida Health are hosting a research open house and conference on Sept. 20.

  • Aug. 23: Opening of a revitalized Red Jacket Dining Hall, which will provide diverse new meal options, including a “churrascaria,” a Brazilian steakhouse-style eatery. It also will feature stations for Italian food, sandwiches and salads, comfort food and a wok.
  • Sept. 28: John and Editha Kapoor Hall is scheduled to open as the new, 160,000-square-foot home for the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. It boasts green design features, including the fact that 75 percent of all space in the building will receive natural light. Significant funding for this project was provided by John Kapoor, who earned his doctorate in medicinal chemistry from the school in 1972.

In addition to these projects, UB has been bustling with renovation work, including Kimball Tower on the South Campus. Home to the School of Public Health and Health Professions, Kimball Tower underwent an interior and exterior overhaul, giving the building a modern new look.

The project will eventually consolidate the school’s programs, currently scattered among seven different buildings, into one facility, creating an environment that fosters even greater academic and research collaboration.

That came on the heels of $7.5 million in renovations to Wende and Beck halls for the School of Nursing.

Hayes Hall, home of the School of Architecture and Planning, also on the South Campus, has been gutted and is undergoing $25.4 million of renovations.

UB’s “Heart of the Campus” plan seeks to renovate key spaces in Capen Hall and Lockwood Memorial Library with the goal of creating a new “learning landscape” where students can learn everywhere on campus, not just in lecture halls and labs.

More to come

The university’s construction plans don’t stop with the Sept. 28 grand opening of Kapoor Hall. The NY SUNY Challenge Grant that UB received from New York State will help kick off funding for the new home for the medical school, a move that is scheduled to begin in 2016.

While this is certainly an exciting time for the health sciences at UB, Buffalo’s building progress is good for the entire university, officials say, because it strengthens the humanities, arts and social sciences by elevating UB’s stature and broadening its impact in the Buffalo Niagara region and beyond.

There will be more to celebrate in the coming years, including the 2013 opening of the new $26 million home of the Educational Opportunity Center on the downtown campus, where a significant amount of construction activity is occurring. And the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus will welcome Women and Children’s Hospital. The new medical school will be in close proximity to both Women and Children’s Hospital and the Buffalo General Medical Center, allowing for better collaboration of education, research and clinical care.

UB’s contributions toward re-energizing downtown Buffalo can’t be overlooked, officials stress. “There’s well over a billion dollars between Kaleida and UB alone in new capital work in play on the northern edge of downtown Buffalo,” says Shibley. “We are bringing new economic vitality and an improved quality of life to the city of Buffalo.”

UB’s construction also is unique for its eye toward architecture and what can be achieved through planning and design. “If architecture is anything, it’s the ability through one family of actions to achieve multiple returns,” Shibley says. “All of these projects, in their pursuit of academic mission, environmental stewardship and economic efficiency, have managed to create what I think are aesthetically good statements on our campus, while delivering on each of those returns.”

Quality architecture is at the heart of the plans for the new medical school facility downtown—so much, in fact, that UB announced an international design competition in March that has resulted in four firms being selected as finalists. An announcement of the winner is expected to be made in the next week.

Of the impact UB is having on downtown, Shibley says, “That’s a very unique circumstance that deserves to be celebrated widely and better understood as a model for other cities to consider.”

The sum of the many parts of UB’s building progress is the university’s pursuit of excellence in everything it does, a point Tripathi has stressed in his first year as president.

“Each new step is part of a long-range, comprehensive plan that we have been pursuing together as part of UB 2020,” Tripathi says. “In essence, that vision is about creating the climate for excellence—and building the innovative campus spaces that enable our faculty and students to thrive is an essential component.”