In the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ new Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1, researchers and students from multiple disciplines collaborate on issues ranging from fermentation and food safety to bioprocessing and biofuels.
These synergistic relationships are allowing the college to expand its scientific reach to address critical issues concerning agriculture, food security, human health, energy, and climate change that will impact people the world over.
“The research activities and discoveries made in the new building will become the cornerstone of programs that will directly benefit the citizens of the commonwealth and the agriculture, food, and health industries,” said Alan Grant, dean of the college. “The work that is happening in the new building will bring the promise of a healthy planet, healthy food, and healthy people.”
The $53.7 million building at the intersection of Duck Pond Drive and Washington Street is the first of four planned for the Human and Agricultural Biosciences Precinct, where faculty members and students will work together and further research, academic, and Extension efforts.
In the new building, scientists from the Department of Biological Systems Engineering develop new energy sources to power the world, build water delivery systems that ensure people have clean water, find ways to combat addiction through new vaccines, and create new targeted drug delivery systems to fight diseases.
At the same time, researchers from the Department of Food Science and Technology help industries to provide healthy food for the world through pasteurization, fermentation, packaging, emulsion stability, probiotic culture viability, ingredient technology, and product and process development.
The 93,860-square-foot building is home to some of the most cutting-edge and advanced technologies combined with common areas to increase creative collaboration.
“By having two departments, researchers, graduate students, and undergraduate students under one roof we will be able to create a synergy among scientists where ideas are shared, hypotheses are debated, and the challenges of the world are tackled,” said Saied Mostaghimi, associate dean of research for the college and director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station.
Among the new technologies in the building are a state-of-the-art sensory research laboratory and a biosecurity level 2 food processing pilot plant that will allow food processing and packaging researchers to conduct research with commercial food processing and packaging equipment to ensure a safe, reliable food supply. Laboratory facilities also allow scientists to explore how food fermentations can supply desirable microorganism in our foods to lessen chronic illness and improve health.
There is also dedicated analytical and microscopy laboratories, a nanoscale research laboratory, and pilot scale research facilities to enable large-scale conversion of renewable resources to biofuels, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. These technologies will enable further advances in synthetic biology, enzyme engineering, metabolic engineering, synthesis of renewable materials, bio-nanotechnology, protein purification, sustainable bioprocessing, and water quality analysis.
The new building will help scientists be more competitive as they apply for grants and funding. It also will help the college recruit students and faculty whose research requires state-of-the-art labs and equipment to solve the world’s most pressing problems.
Both the Biological Systems Engineering and the Food Science and Technology departments have seen tremendous growth in recent years as students choose disciplines that are rewarding and offer promising career paths. U.S. News and World Report recently ranked the biological systems engineering graduate curriculum as ninth in the nation among biological and agricultural engineering programs.
The building will be LEED-certified, a designation given by the U.S. Green Building Council for structures that utilize the very best in energy and environmental design. From the first day workers broke ground on the new building, a host of sustainable methods and technologies were incorporated to support a high-performance, cost-effective, and environmentally sound project.
Asphalt from the old parking lot was recycled. Building materials were produced from renewable materials and wood used in the project came from a certified source to reduce the impact on forests. Low-emitting paints, sealers, and carpeting ensures clean air inside, and windows provide warm, natural light to reduce the amount of energy needed. The building’s placement on the lot was chosen to minimize harsh western sunlight while maximizing passive daylight via large bay windows.
“This is an exciting time for the college,” Grant said. “This new building and future biosciences precinct are going to help the agriculture and life sciences disciplines and industries thrive while looking ahead to the future to solve emerging challenges.”
The Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1 isn't the only building with innovative features that's ready to open in 2014. When the College of Engineering’s $100 million Signature Engineering Building opens in May 2014, it will contain a structure stability experiment carried out by the Virginia Tech Smart Infrastructure Laboratory.
Spearheaded by Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty members Pablo Tarazaga and Mary Kasarda, the lab will outfit the building with more than 140 high-tech accelerometer mounts and numerous sensors. The researchers plan to track new data on smart infrastructure engineering related to building design and security, occupancy monitoring for emergency response, and structural health monitoring.
The sensors will be able to detect occupants, measure normal structural settling and wind stresses, and — vital for future engineering designs — track building movement resulting from any earthquake similar to what struck Virginia in 2011.
The new Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1 provides a places to bring together researchers and students from across disciplines. "In this new facility, they will be tackling some of society's biggest challenges in energy, food, and health," said Alan Grant, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
In October 2012, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Alan Grant put the first piece of Hokie Stone on the new building.