Construction Begins on IDEA Center

Austin College officially has begun the construction phase of its new IDEA Center, a science building designed for interactive learning and interdisciplinary studies. The $38 million IDEA Center will be a three-story facility including 16 classrooms, 32 advanced laboratory-classrooms, a 108-seat auditorium, and an observatory. The center will house the departments of biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental studies, mathematics, and physics. Construction trailers were moved onsite today, and data and phone service installation is underway.

See the Construction Photos.

“We are happy to announce Hunt Construction Group as the general contractor for the project. Hunt is renowned for its expertise in LEED/green initiatives and building bio-medical research facilities nationwide,” said Heidi Ellis, vice president for Business Affairs at Austin College. “We are very pleased and hope this project will create opportunity for local businesses and area trades throughout Grayson County during the construction phase.” Other major partners for this effort include American Bank of Texas in Sherman, Dallas-based Pritchard Associates as project management consultants, and Page Southerland Page as the architect of record, also based in Dallas. Conceptual design for the building was prepared by Shepley Bulfinch Richardson & Abbott of Boston, Massachusetts.

“American Bank of Texas was honored to be selected as the lender on this project,” said Greg Kirkpatrick, senior vice president for American Bank. “The bank has a longstanding history with Austin College and we were excited to be able to provide financing for the IDEA Center, a facility that will surely strengthen the College’s existing reputation as an academic leader in the sciences and pre-medical fields. As a local independent community bank, we worked closely with the staff of the College to customize a sizable lending arrangement that not only finances the construction of the IDEA Center, but aligns itself with the school’s budget and future growth plans. “

The IDEA Center is the next significant step in Austin College’s current strategy to integrate science and technology into the liberal arts curriculum and maintain a competitive program in these fields, noted Marjorie Hass, president of Austin College. “This building is designed to enhance the interdisciplinary relationships within the sciences,” Hass said. “A liberal arts education fosters and develops an inquisitive mind, a thirst and excitement for discovery, and a fearless, entrepreneurial spirit. Our goal is to make this type of education accessible to all our students to equip them to be successful throughout their lives.”

The LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) IDEA Center will incorporate new “green” strategies using renewable energy resources and ecologically friendly construction techniques and building materials. The building design itself exhibits science at work by taking advantage of solar shading and natural light, incorporating more efficient mechanical systems, and landscaping with native vegetation. Features of the new complex will reduce the building’s energy consumption and establish a new campus standard for the design, construction, and operation of environmentally friendly buildings.

One highlight of the new facility will be the IDEA Center Observatory, equipped with a state-of-the-art telescope to provide a window to the universe. College officials anticipate the observatory will allow further outreach to the larger community and school children across North Texas. The building is expected to open in fall 2013.

Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the college is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives.