Suspended Planetarium Classroom Unveiled as EMU's Science Complex Addition Nears Completion

Dec 16, 2010, 17:53 ET from Eastern Michigan University

YPSILANTI, Mich., Dec. 16, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The largest single construction project in the history of Eastern Michigan University, the new EMU Science Complex addition and adjoining building renovations, hits another milestone today, with the unveiling of the new building's planetarium classroom, suspended five floors above a distinct atrium area.


The invitation-only event offered a first look at the inside of the science complex addition, which features a five-story view up to the suspended, spherical planetarium.

Eastern faculty members and administrators said the $90 million science complex will have wide-ranging effects locally and around the state.

"This is a historic project in several respects," said Susan Martin, EMU president. "First, it is the largest single construction project in the history of the University. But, more importantly, this science complex will help EMU meet the national need for more teachers in science, technology, engineering and math. EMU is a leader in science education."

Martin noted that the complex is part of EMU's unprecedented, $195-million, four-year capital plan, an investment that underscores Eastern's commitment to its students and to ensuring their academic success.

"We have set the pace in Michigan in terms of keeping education affordable for our students and their families, yet at the same time are dramatically improving key facilities and hiring new faculty," Martin said. "Our priorities of helping students attend Eastern and providing the new facilities they deserve are clear, and the students are noticing."

The complex is being self-funded, through the sale of bonds and a 4-percent tuition increase earmarked for capital projects that was approved in 2005.

Faculty and classes will begin to use the new addition during the winter semester, starting Jan. 5. Then further renovation work on the existing, adjacent Mark Jefferson Science Building will begin. It's part of one of the most active periods of construction in EMU history, with the Pray-Harrold classroom building also undergoing renovations that have displaced classes and faculty there for at least a year and a half.

The project includes construction of the 80,000 square foot addition as well as renovation of the existing 180,000 square foot Mark Jefferson building. The addition will house the biology, chemistry, geography and geology, physics and astronomy, and psychology departments.

The addition's five-story section features 36 science labs and an atrium that looks up to the spherical classroom/planetarium, which is the building's most noteworthy characteristic. At night, the lit exterior of the planetarium will be seen from the west, from Oakwood Street and the adjacent parking lot. Other architectural flourishes include a suspended walking bridge leading from the Oakwood lot, and an atrium walkthrough.

Other building features include a new mechanical system to reduce energy consumption and costs, and a "green" roof that offers teaching opportunities in sustainable building design. The main pedestrian pathway includes a rain garden to help filter and detain storm water runoff.

The building is designed to meet LEED Silver certification. LEED stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environment Design," an internationally recognized green building certification system.

The architectural firm of Lord, Aeck and Sargeant of Ann Arbor, designed the complex.  Christman Company, with Michigan offices in Lansing, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Traverse City, is the contractor.  DMJM Management of Detroit is the program manager.

The original Mark Jefferson building was constructed in 1969 for $8.2 million.

SOURCE Eastern Michigan University