Biola University's New Lim Center Expands Science Education Offerings
Dedication ceremonies on February 16 marked the official opening of Biola University's new Alton and Lydia Lim Center for Science, Technology and Health. The $63 million Center, funded completely by donors, is Biola' s most ambitious building project to date - an expansive new facility which triples the amount of space devoted to science education at the La Mirada, CA university.
The 91,200-square-foot Lim Center, which opened in January, is now home to Biola's eighth school, providing some the university's fastest-growing and in-demand programs. It features 28 laboratories, five classrooms, numerous research spaces and all-new, cutting-edge technology. Located on the southwest side of University Drive - the symbolic gateway to the campus - the building is designed to provide a state-of-the-art teaching and research space for all the college's undergraduate science, engineering, mathematics and health programs.
Biola University is a nationally ranked Christian university located near Los Angeles in La Mirada. Founded in 1908, Biola offers biblically-centered education, with more than 40 undergraduate majors and 80 concentrations and 145 professional fields of study, as well as master's, doctoral, and professional degrees. The Alton and Lydia Lim Center was made possible by a generous $12 million lead gift by Alton Lim.
Architectural firm Gensler designed the project, and C.W. Driver served as general contractor. To meet the site and client constraints, the designers developed a highly efficient plan that reduced costs and allowed for greater flexibility and future reconfiguration through modular lab spaces. Gensler's design for the Center has an industrial feel, with many overhead mechanical, electrical and plumbing areas remaining exposed and painted as an architectural feature; the building also consists of flexible work spaces to allow adaptation to new sciences, technology and teaching methods over time. C.W. Driver constructed the building with a structural steel frame to provide a high degree of stiffness needed for the facility, since it contains many sensitive instruments.
The building is comprised of four floors, which provide a number of learning spaces in, around and on top of the building. The top of the building features solar photovoltaic arrays, a rooftop observatory, and an on-site greenhouse for the university's developing botany program. In addition to five classrooms, the Center features a human anatomy suite, a dedicated SEM (scanning and electron microscope) lab, and TEM (transmission electron microscope) lab. The lower level consists of the Nursing Program and vibration sensitive labs, the first floor consists of Anatomy and Biology, the second floor includes Biology and Physics, and the third floor is for Chemistry.
An Aggressive Build Schedule, but Minimal Disruption
Tom Jones, Project Executive at C.W. Driver in Los Angeles, says the project had an aggressive build schedule necessitated by an opening date that was promised to the faculty, staff and students early in the design process. He reports that C.W. Driver worked with Biola and the design team to create several early packages that allowed construction to commence ahead of the final design. A site package was developed which allowed the contractor to mobilize, perform demolition, site clearing, and bring all underground utilities into the site.
"Biola wanted underground utilities started early because they are all under the main road on campus," Jones says. "They wanted this work done during the winter break. We do a lot of educational projects, and it's important to us to work closely with the client so that our work is not intrusive. We worked with campus planners and administration very early in the process to take care of everyone's needs.
"The utility work was the only thing that really impacted the campus; we had very little disruption," he continues. "We endeavored to ensure a workaround for campus traffic flow - the building is adjacent to the main campus loop, and all access to the south side of the campus comes right through there. On the other side is a large athletic field which hosts many events, including commencement. We established an egress route for students and staff, and although we were allowed to use the main campus loop for construction traffic, we elected to come through an alternate 'back door' route to the site."
Project Manager Scott Kaufman points out that his team made sure that even the construction fencing was not an eyesore, and instead more of a highlight of the project. "We actually engaged the campus through the Art Department, utilizing plywood barriers that were painted with murals. We wanted to get the students invested in the project."
For the critical milestone of erecting the structural steel frame, it was determined that steel would need to be ordered ahead of the completion of the design. Working in conjunction with the design team, C.W. Driver was able to complete the structural steel frame design to the point where a mill order could be placed and the original installation date maintained. The firm also developed a shoring, mass excavation and foundation package to ensure readiness for the erection of the steel frame.
Kaufman reports that the project had a 19-month construction time line, starting in December 2015. "There was a small period of non-work due to campus restraints, but the project was completed in September of 2017, six weeks ahead of our contracted schedule. We wanted to be open in time for the spring semester in January 2018. The university needed a fair amount of time to move all personnel, equipment, furnishings, etc. into the building. We always planned to beat the contracted schedule to give them extra time to be ready to open."
Efficiency and sustainability were important factors in the design of the Lim Center, Jones points out. "We separated the HVAC into two parts. One is for the labs, because science labs typically require 100 percent fresh outdoor air supply. Other areas utilize a recirculating system. Two of the classrooms are designed so they can later be converted to labs as needed, and the HVAC system can be modified."
Sustainable features are incorporated throughout the building to optimize energy and water use efficiency and enhance the sustainability of the site. The project achieved LEED Silver certification.
It has also received numerous safety awards, says Kaufman. "We partnered with California OSHA, brought them in early, and had consultants review all phases of the project. The Lim Center project won 21 Golden Gate Awards, a new record for California - the previous record was nine awards."
California OSHA gives Golden Gate Awards to high-hazard companies that are maintaining effective safety and health management systems. Companies request and receive an on-site consultation visit to subsequently meet the qualifications for Golden Gate recognition.
Facility Designed for Projected Growth in Scientific Careers
By 2022, employment in careers related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics is projected to grow to more than 9 million, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. With cutting-edge resources and technology, Biola University's new Lim Center is expected to greatly enhance the university's ability to prepare the next generation of health professionals, research scientists, engineers, mathematicians, innovators and technology developers.
The project joins numerous projects in which C.W. Driver has been involved within the higher education sciences and bio-medical field in California. Among the most recent are the Keck Center for Science and Engineering at Chapman University in Orange; Life Sciences Building at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles; Sciences Building at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo; and the Segerstrom Science Center at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa."
The Lim Center project has been a very positive experience, says Jones. "It was a really enjoyable process to collaborate with Biola University and bring a state-of-the-art learning facility to their next generation of students, "he comments. "We worked closely with university leadership and Gensler to evaluate constructability improvement opportunities, coordination items and each building system to maximize the value this project will bring to Biola's students and faculty. The strong collaboration throughout the process helped ensure that all the right decisions were made."