With help from a gust of wind, a duck-tolling retriever named Kefi tugged the cloth from a sign marking a new UC Davis veterinary medicine building on Friday.
When finished in December 2012, the $58.5 million building, dubbed Research Facility 3B, will stand four stories high and measure 76,000 square feet.
It “will provide modern, innovative research facilities and a platform for the School of Veterinary Medicine to continue rising to even greater heights,” Chancellor Linda Katehi told about 100 people at a ceremonial groundbreaking.
Inside the new building, about 50 faculty members, some 40 faculty-student research teams and support staff will further delve into, among other areas, pet and human nutrition; neural diseases, like autism; and the link between human and animal disease.
It also will house extension specialists, biosecurity programs and food-safety monitoring and diagnostic systems.
“(There’s) excitement about the opportunities,” said Dean Bennie Osburn of the school, which ranked behind only Cornell University in the most recent U.S. News and World Report rankings. “Our faculty are well-poised and in many respects are on the leading edge in these different areas.
“We will be able to conduct research that is state-of-the art. We have aging facilities that make it impossible to conduct the type of research that we’re capable of doing and need to be doing.”
Vet Med 3B, northeast of Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, will cap a $354 million effort to build eight new buildings for the school. Since 2000, six new vet-med buildings have been completed on campus, as well as a teaching and research center in Tulare.
UCD launched the building program after the American Veterinary Medical Association put the school on limited accreditation in 1998, because it found the facilities inadequate for the number of students UCD had enrolled. Full accreditation was restored in 2004.
Vet Med 3B, designed to meet the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold standards, is being paid for with state funds raised from the sale of revenue bonds sold in April 2010, campus money and $12 million in private donations.
The new building will bring together in one corner of campus vet med researchers, clinical faculty and students who for 40 years have been scattered across a handful of sites on campus.
John Pascoe, executive associate dean, said that will encourage greater collaboration, as will the building itself. Rather than wall off a given researcher’s lab and office space from others, Biosafety level 2 and 3 labs will be clustered more closely together.
Pascoe, who oversees the school’s long-range building plan, compared that design and common areas to escaping jail cells for a playground. They’re mirrored in some of the school’s other new buildings. They’ve already yielded new partnerships.
“We’re seeing people come together, saying, ‘I didn’t realize you were working on that,’ or ‘I didn’t really understand that; you and I can do this together,’ ” he said.
The building’s more flexible design also will better allow for programs to grow and shrink, based on budget and need, he said, and incorporate changes in technology over time.
Many faculty members will be moving from Haring Hall. Discussions are ongoing about what to do with the space they leave behind. Among the options will be providing a home for vet-med programs still stuck in aging temporary buildings, like the Center for Wildlife Health.
Next on the school’s to-do list: a major renovation and expansion of the vet-med teaching hospital at a cost of $50 million to $100 million.
When it opened in 1970, the teaching hospital was the country’s first and served as a model for most of the 28 others nationwide.
Since then, however, about one-third of those campuses have built still newer facilities, Pascoe said. UCD’s hospital has had two major additions, the most recent in 2004.
The school has about 300 faculty members working with more than 700 students, more than 500 of whom are pursuing doctor of veterinary medicine degrees. It provides advanced training for 100 veterinary residents in 25 specialties.
Pascoe said that while new facilities boost faculty, they have been shown to be most important to students.
“We went through a period prior to that accreditation decision, and even after that, where students said, ‘I really want to be there, but it’s so old and crappy (that) I’m going to go someplace else.’ I think now we’re way beyond that,” he said.
“From a faculty recruitment point of view: While facilities are important, it’s really about who you can rub shoulders with. Even when we haven’t had the most contemporary facilities, we’ve had extraordinary people.”