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Bridge for Laboratory Sciences

This innovative 82,000-square-foot building opened in January 2016 for instruction and research in numerous fields while also serving as the new home of the Chemistry Department. Its classrooms, support spaces, multidisciplinary laboratories, and program suites are designed to foster collaboration and expand the building’s use across the science curriculum. Particularly notable resources include the Visualization Lab, the Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Lab, and the Earth and Environment Lab.

Integrated science is in the very DNA of the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences. The structure of the building literally dovetails with the Olmsted Hall of Biological Sciences, and passages between the two were built at multiple levels to encourage the flow of people and ideas. Its Earth and Environment Lab was designed to serve teaching and research in biology, chemistry, and earth science. And Vassar’s Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory finally has a permanent home in the Bridge.  Started in 2003, this first-of-its-kind program at a liberal arts college facilitates collaboration between biology, cognitive science, and computer science professors.  

Innovations abound throughout the building. For example, two types of “bird-friendly” glass are on its exterior, making the Bridge one of the world’s most advanced buildings for minimizing bird collisions (its wetland location is the habitat for an extensive avian population). This includes the first application of Ornilux glass in the U.S., which has an embedded coating and pattern that are highly visible to birds and nearly invisible to humans. Among its other environmentally minded features, a system collects rainwater and snow melt from the roof and supplies it to the nearby Olmsted Hall greenhouse. Also based on design elements such as sophisticated air-handling systems and the use of natural light in interior spaces, Vassar is applying for the Bridge to gain the advanced and highly sought LEED Silver certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The building even has an innovative relationship to its site. It was expressly designed as a bridge across the Fonteyn Kill wetland to minimize its impact on that ecosystem. At the same time the lowest level of the building provides easy walking access to the wetland for field study, and adjacent facilities provide for environmental analysis.