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Groundbreaking for STEPS facility slated for early August

An artist's conception of of the new STEPS facility. For larger image, click on picture.

Pending receipt of necessary construction permits, Lehigh University will commence groundbreaking for its new Science, Technology, Environment, Policy & Society (STEPS) building in early August 2008, after revising its construction schedule for the facility. Lehigh will apply for building permits in early July to construct the new 135,000-square-foot facility at the corner of West Packer Avenue and Vine Street.

In addition to the building, the multidisciplinary STEPS initiative will include the creation of endowed chairs for faculty engaged in science, technology, environment, policy and society; undergraduate research fellowships to provide opportunities for meaningful research in related fields; and endowed graduate fellowships for pre-doctoral students in related fields.

“This is a period of transformation for Lehigh as we recognize the increasingly complex challenges facing our world today and commit to creating future leaders who can address society’s most pressing issues,” said Alice P. Gast, Lehigh president. “STEPS is a cornerstone of this transformation, and will provide the human capital and stimulating environment needed to foster teaching opportunities and breakthroughs in environmental research.”

STEPS will draw faculty from disciplines across the institution who conduct research in areas including climate change, aquatic ecosystems, nanotechnology, groundwater contamination, environmental literacy, and energy-related topics, to name a few.

While a construction start date of 2009 was anticipated, the University weighed estimates of the inflationary impact on the project if delayed, and opted to begin the project immediately. With an estimated total cost of $62.1 million, including construction and all associated costs, the STEPS facility is the largest undertaking of its kind in the school’s 143-year history.

An artist's conception of the glass concourse that will run the length of the South Annex of the new STEPS facility. For larger image, click on picture.

Beginning construction immediately will allow for the most efficient and effective building plan, allowing the University to maximize its financial investment as construction industry costs continue to escalate. By initiating construction of the building immediately, Lehigh projects an opening in June 2010.

As a major academic initiative, Lehigh is confident in its ability to raise funds for the STEPS building during its construction.

"Over the past several months, we've carefully reassessed the situation with regard to STEPS and talked with potential donors about the importance of the initiative," said Joseph P. Kender, Jr., vice president for advancement. "There is significant interest in supporting an effort that can lead to solutions to challenging problems such as the environment and energy, and we're confident we can raise the necessary funds while the building is being constructed."

This state-of-the-art facility will enable collaborative research and teaching of environmental science, engineering and policy, and provide undergraduate science laboratories in life science, chemistry and environmental science.

“Having a variety of disciplines under one roof allows us to confront the issues facing our environment and natural resources from multiple perspectives. It will provide the best opportunity to advance our knowledge and spark the discussions needed to generate viable solutions to these challenges for years to come,” said Gast.

Additionally, Lehigh intends to move forward with a building design that is certifiable under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Building and operating facilities in an environmentally responsible way is a Lehigh priority.

Lehigh expects to hold a ceremonial groundbreaking for the STEPS building on Founder's Day in October.

--Tricia Long

Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2008

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