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Tuesday, 20 March 2012 10:21

AWRI to expand footprint

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AWRI to expand footprint Courtesy rendering
MUSKEGON — In his TEDx Muskegon presentation, Dr. Alan Steinman, director for the Annis Water Research Institute at Grand Valley State University, talked about a “Blue Water Economy” and how the Great Lakes can continue to drive the region’s economy in new ways.

Now the AWRI is one step closer to increasing its ability to further research in what Steinman called “non-market economic value systems.”

In February, GVSU’s board of trustees approved the construction of a new field research center at the institute’s Lake Michigan Center on Muskegon Lake.

The proposed $3.4 million LEED-certified facility will be located on the site of the existing field station building on the shores of Muskegon Lake, near the Lake Michigan Center. Plans include increased capacity, more lab space and year-round research potential, which is currently limited to the warm months.

The plans for the new facility were initially created more than a year ago when the federal government extended grants to research institutions, which could demonstrate the ability to do transformational research. However, the feds cut funding for the grants with the passage of the new budget. The project was dead in the water.

Still, creating the initial proposal for the feds didn’t leave the AWRI crew with nothing. What remained were designs and architectural drawings, and after an anonymous lead donation, interest in the project was reenergized.

Steinman and his team then spent another four to five months working with architects to redevelop drawings and come up with a concept that was within the budget. Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr, and Huber Inc. will serve as the project architect.

Construction drawings are expected to be completed in June 2012, with construction starting in August 2012. The new building is expected to be finished by December 2013. The old field station building will be removed to make space for the new facility.

The new field station will be paid for by a combination of an existing federal grant, private donations and university capital development funds, according to the university.

The project has secured significant contributions from both the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and GVSU — $500,000 and $700,000 respectively — but a $1.2 million gap remains, Steinman said.

“We expect to start a capital campaign in the near future to try and raise those dollars,” he said. “It will still be LEED-certified, but (it) may be scaled back.”

The two-story building will house three new laboratories, including an environmental simulation lab, which allows research to mimic the effects of anticipated climate change scenarios. The second lab will be a general aquatic ecology lab and the third is a mesocosm lab to be used to execute controlled experiments on small-scale replications of natural environments.

A new boat-loading bay for research vessels, four researcher and graduate student offices and secure storage will cover the 14,800-square-foot space.

Steinman said the goal for the institute is to do good science that doesn’t sit on the shelf, but that is put into the hands of decision makers so they have the latest data and findings to inform policy.

“There are a lot things done by ecosystems for free … that we don’t value,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is develop tools to assess what these capabilities are.”

Steinman said the institute’s research covers a wide swath of study and can be used to address problems with contaminated sediment, invasive species and bioaccumulation of contaminants, among other applications.

“(The facility) will likely double our research capacity — in quality and quantity,” he said.

Sixteen graduate students are expected to occupy the new field research building and between 20 and 25 employees will move between the Lake Michigan Center and the new station.

Steinman is currently in the process of hiring a new climatologist for AWRI, who will eventually work out of the new building.

Read 1620 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 August 2012 10:40

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