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New Ole Miss STEM Building to Focus on Eco-Friendly Learning Environment

Jay Wenger
IMC student

The Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation, in the Science District of the University of Mississippi’s Oxford campus, is on track to open in fall 2024. Construction began a year ago and is approaching the halfway point.

It’s the largest construction project in the history of the University of Mississippi’s Oxford campus.

The new Center for Science and Technology Innovation is now about halfway through the construction phase and those overseeing the project say it’s going to house a unique learning space.

“Having things like utilities that come from the ceiling to promote flexibility, so this room could change over time, depending on the teaching method,” said Kurt Shettles, president of the architecture firm for the project. “The lecture halls are oval-shaped so that students can see other students’ faces and it promotes discussion and collaboration.”

The 202,000-square-foot science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) building comes with a $175 million price tag and is set to open in the fall of 2024. 

Chad Hunter, associate university architect with the Department of Facilities Planning, said the facility is not just for STEM students.

“The goal of the project is to increase STEM majors and enhance STEM literacy for all students,” Hunter said. “This particular building will speak mostly to undergrads.”

Hunter says this will also be one of the most eco-friendly buildings on campus.

“The goal of the project was to be 70% carbon neutral, which is an achievement,” Shettles said.

He noted that heated or cooled air in the building allows will filter through the top of the atrium and be reused in the labs before leaving the building. Shettles described what he called “terra-cotta baguettes” as a new architectural feature to buildings that helps keep heat from entering the building through windows via the sun.

“They’re precisely designed to not let direct sunlight hit the face of the window in the summertime. So, that’s where most of the heat gain is for buildings. However, in the winter, when the sun is lower in the horizon, you can actually [adjust the baguettes] to allow sun to penetrate the space to heat the building,” Shettles said.

The project has been 10 years in the making, according to Hunter, but he says they will wait for the last minute to buy the facility’s lab equipment to ensure it is state of the art.

“One good example is the visualization lab. That originally was sort of looked at as maybe like a small IMAX theater, Hunter said. “Now with virtual reality, immersive reality and augmented reality… we have the opportunity now because we haven’t procured it yet to go ahead and procure that type of equipment and redesign or design that space around that.”

So, what’s the next big project? According to Hunter, improving campus infrastructure is critical.

“We’ve got in planning some other buildings for schools and then looking at an early learning center on campus, Hunter said.  “Just some pretty exciting things, but infrastructure is a big deal. We can’t have any of these new, nice buildings if we don’t have the infrastructure.”

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