Construction begins on science research complex

By Drew Thompson, Staff Writer

Administrators donned hard hats April 22 to break ground for the construction of the new science, technology and research building and drive the final nail into the coffin of the U’s golf course.

Combined donations from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, Micron Technology Foundation, the U and the state helped pay the bill for the $130 million complex, which will later include three more research buildings.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. had no qualms about tearing up the course and said he was impressed with whoever negotiated the deal to convert the golf course into intramural fields and research buildings.

“I despise the game, quite frankly,” Huntsman said.

The Sorenson Foundation contributes on many fronts to the U, including art, music, innovation and entrepreneur training, said U President Michael Young, who also dug a shovel into the dirt. The new Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building is named after James Sorenson, a pioneer of Utah biotechnology who died two years ago, for his foundation’s $15 million donation.

The building will be home to researchers from the Utah Science, Technology and Research Initiative, which the Utah Legislature created in 2005 to bring world-class researchers to Utah in hopes of invigorating the state economy.

Huntsman defined the mission of USTAR with three objectives: collect brainpower within the state, drop traditional academic barriers and apply research that would otherwise remain on the shelf to industry.

“It’s not accidental that the sun shines on the event today,” Young said. He said enormous benefits will be traced back to the ground breaking of the Sorenson building someday.

The core research facilities of the building will focus on small animal imaging, biomedical microscopy, engineering microscopy and a nanofabrication laboratory, said Dinesh Patel, chairman of the USTAR governing authority.

Aside from trailblazing research, the building will also help set a new standard for sustainable building practices on campus.

A series of panels on the exterior will form a passive solar thermal management system, reflecting heat from the sun and making the building 40 percent cooler than it would have been, said James Bardsley, associate vice president for finances and planning at the U.

Numerous other green tactics qualified the building for gold LEED certification and will save $1 million a year in electric, gas and water bills, effectively paying for themselves within five or six years, said Jerry Percifield, an architect for Lord, Aeck and Sargent’s Atlanta that is designing the building.

James Lee Sorenson, son of James Sorenson, said he is an “avid golfer” who used to play on the course, but the future research will be worth it.

“(This was a) difficult decision to come to, but I did see the USTAR light,” he said.

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Richard Payson/The Daily Utah Chronicle

A line of shovels waits for U administrators and Utah politicians to break ground on the construction of the new USTAR buildings on April 22.