The first thing Kenneth Hightower wants to make clear is this: the newest building to open at Oakland University is not the medical school.
But according to Hightower and his colleagues at the university, it is the future.
For the past year and a half, the Rochester community has watched as the shades-of-orange structure at the corner of Squirrel and University arose from a campus field. University leaders say there has been a collective assumption around town that the building will house the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, which opened last year.
For the record, that's not the case — though its purpose is medical in nature.
The 160,000-square-foot, $64.4 million structure is the Human Health Building, and its goal is to promote health, healing and medical intervention.
"We are training the ones who will try to get to you before you have to see the doctors that the medical school is training," said Hightower, Director of the university's Prevention Research Center and Dean of the School of Health Sciences, which moved from Hannah Building into the new building this fall.
The Human Health Building also houses the School of Nursing, which Hightower said makes for a "cool justaposition" of health and healing and fits with his mantra of "under one roof."
The two schools have about 4,000 students studying everything from physical therapy to exercise science to nursing.
The building's completion is part of a trend of campus expansion at OU: the university has seen the addition of four academic buildings within the past 13 years. Next up: groundbreaking for a $74.6 million engineering center, which will be completed in 2014.
The Human Health Building, built by the Michigan-based Christman Company and designed by SmithGroup, is also a model for environmentally friendly design. It is expected to receive a LEED Platinum certification for its energy-saving features.
The building includes:
- A healthy food court called the Health Nut.
- Cork floor and bamboo cabinets throughout.
- 256 geothermal wells underneath the parking lot to boost energy efficiency.
- Solar panels for cooling, humidity-control and heating water supplies.
- Floor-to-ceiling windows that let in natural light.
- Artwork commissioned by the university.
- Teaching labs that mimic a hospital setting, with beds and medical mannequins as patients.
- A two-story Occupational Safety and Health lab that trains students in one of the fastest-growing fields in health services.
Long-term plans call for the Human Health Building to be part of a medical village at the university, with the medical school someday being housed nearby. For now, Hightower said the focus is on merging university experts, students and members of the community.
"This building is bringing people together," said Hightower. He cited ongoing studies that reach out to members of the community for prevention research, such as one that is looking to explore the rise of back pain in teenagers, for example.
Cheryl McPherson, Assistant Dean of the School of Nursing, said the building is allowing students to learn among innovation.
"Students don't have to go far to get a state-of-the-art education," McPherson said.
A grand opening celebration of the Human Health Building, featuring community and university dignitaries, is planned for 3-5 p.m. Friday.