Eastern Michigan University Thursday formally unveiled the signature architectural touch of its $90 million science complex upgrade — a spherical planetarium suspended five stories above an open atrium area in an 80,000-square-foot laboratory, classroom and office addition to the Mark Jefferson Science Building.

The largest single construction project in the history of EMU, the addition will open at the start of second semester Jan. 5.

Once faculty and classes move into the addition, a renovation of the 41-year-old, 180,000-square-foot Jefferson building will begin, a project set for completion in 2012.

“This is a historic project in several respects,” said EMU presidnt Susan Martin. “First, it is the largest single construction project in the history of the university. But more importantly, this science project will help EMU meet the national need for more teachers in science, technology, engineering and math.”

Roy Wilbanks, chair of the EMU Board of Regents, noted at the invitation-only opening that the addition was paid for by a 4 percent student fee imposed in June 2005.

Former board chair Thomas Sidlik noted that Eastern Michigan University gradutaes “tend to stay in Michigan more than almost any other of the 15 state universities, so Michigan money invseted in Eastern Michigan University and its students stays in Michigan.”

The complex is part of EMU’s $195 million, four-year capital plan that is also seeing major additions and renovations to classroom buildings and dormitories.

And Michigan’s Lt. Gov.-Elect, now State Rep. Brian Calley (R-Portland), said the renovated EMU science center “will be a part of the reinvention of Michigan, a very important part.”

The addition will house EMU’s biology. chemistry, geography, physics and astronomy, and psychology department.

Its five stories feature 36 science labs that will house cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, chemical synthesis, polymer studies, and surface and materials studies.

The building was designed to be environmentally friendly and meet LEED Silver certification. A new mechanical system reduces energy consumption and costs, a green roof offers teaching opportunities in sustainable building design, and the main pedestrian pathway includes a rain garden to help filter and detain storm water runoff.

The Ann Arbor architectural firm Lord, Aeck and Sargeant designed the complex. The contractor was Christman Co., with offices in Lansing, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Traverse City. DMJM Management of Detroit is the program manager.

A campuswide openhouse for the new addition for all faculty, staff and students will be held ni January.

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