The new Ole Miss STEM building will focus on an eco-friendly learning environment

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Jay Wenger
BMI 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 set to open in fall 2024. Construction began a a year and approaching halfway through.

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

The new Center for Science and Technology Innovation is now halfway through the construction phase and those overseeing the project say it will 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 in shape so that students can see the faces of other students and this encourages discussion and collaboration.”

The 202,000 square foot science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) building has a price tag of $175 million and is expected to open in fall 2024.

Chad Hunter, a university architect associated 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 improve STEM literacy for all students,” Hunter said. “This particular building will primarily speak to undergraduate students.”

Hunter says it will also be one of the greenest buildings on campus.

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

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

“They are precisely designed not to allow direct sunlight to hit the window face in the summer. This is where most of the heat gain for buildings occurs. However, in winter, when the sun is lower on the horizon, you can actually [adjust the baguettes] to allow sunlight to enter the space to heat the building,” Shettles said.

The project took 10 years to prepare, according to Hunter, but he says they’ll wait until the last minute to purchase the facility’s lab equipment to ensure it’s state-of-the-art.

“A good example is the visualization lab. Originally, it was kind of considered a small IMAX theater, Hunter said. “Now with virtual reality, immersive reality and augmented reality…we now have the opportunity, because we haven’t bought it yet, to go ahead and get this kind of equipment and rethink or design this space around that.”

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

“We need to plan other buildings for schools and then consider an early learning center on campus,” Hunter said. “Just pretty exciting stuff, but the infrastructure is a big deal. We can’t have any of these new beautiful buildings if we don’t have the infrastructure.


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