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Texas A&M University at Galveston Dedicates Ocean and Coastal Studies Building Designed by WHR Architects

At a special ceremony on November 11, 2010, Texas A&M University at Galveston (TAMUG) dedicated its new Ocean and Coastal Studies Building (OCSB). Designed by WHR Architects, the highly sophisticated, 110,000 square foot building is the largest and b

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At a special ceremony on November 11, 2010, Texas A&M University at Galveston (TAMUG) dedicated its new Ocean and Coastal Studies Building (OCSB). Designed by WHR Architects, the highly sophisticated, 110,000 square foot building is the largest and best equipped marine research facility on the Gulf Coast, and among the finest facilities of its kind in the nation. Located on Pelican Island in Galveston County, overlooking TAMUG’s marina, the facility houses the Texas Institute of Oceanography, Center for Texas Beaches and Shores, Texas Seafood Safety Laboratory, Laboratory of Oceanographic and Environmental Research, Coastal Zone Laboratory, and the university’s Marine Biology and Marine Sciences academic departments. The active marina shelters a fleet of both research and training vessels, and the new building, set upon its shores, serves as a portal to the exploration and knowledge of marine life.

"When we embarked on this project with the university, we had three goals," said Jill Harmon Bard, WHR Principal and project architect for the building. "The building was designed to reinforce the school’s position as a leading marine education and research institution, to promote interdisciplinary teaching and research, and to earn no less than Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver designation. Seeing the facility open and active with researchers, faculty, and students using the spaces, and anticipating a LEED Gold designation for its energy efficiency and environmental impact, is the best possible reward."

Regents Professor Dr. William A. Seitz, Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, and Acting Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Office, who worked closely with the design team on the development of the OCSB, shares Bard's enthusiasm for the outcome, saying, " The team has exceeded all expectations on this project and has kept the project on time and within budget—the most critical of all expectations."

The building had faced extra challenges: after breaking ground in April 2008, Hurricane Ike flooded the excavations that fall. Nonetheless, TAMUG opened the $53 million OCSB in July 2010, before the start of the current academic year. Now home to 40 faculty researchers, approximately 100 graduate students, and undergraduate students in ten scientific major areas of study, the OCSB includes 30 individual laboratories, two large classrooms and several meeting rooms along with faculty, graduate student and administrative offices, as well as the learning/discovery areas in the main circulation core, and a suite of advanced computer aided visualization laboratories. The Sea Life Center, featuring living specimens and active research support, will serve as a community outreach and educational facility.

“WHR has been fortunate to work with Texas A&M University on several significant projects in recent years, including Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, Harte Research Institute (with Richter Architects); Prairie View A&M University, College of Nursing, Houston (Texas Medical Center) and Texas A&M University, General Services Complex/Office Of The Texas State Chemist, College Station," says WHR President and Chairman David Watkins, FAIA. "We know first hand of their commitment to providing quality education and the facilities necessary to deliver on that vision. WHR is proud to be a part of creating this critical and environmentally sustainable building."

Among WHR recent and current projects: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Research Park Complex, Behavioral and Biomedical Sciences Building; The Methodist Hospital Research Institute in the Texas Medical Center, Houston; Sam Houston State University, James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center in Huntsville; University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler; and Stephen F. Austin State University, Richard and Lucille DeWitt School of Nursing in Nacogdoches.

WHR Architects is a full service architecture, interior design and technology planning firm. The firm’s commitment to critical thinking is balanced by an ingrained empathy that results in both improved project outcomes and positive working experiences for their clients. With over 130 people in Houston and Dallas, Texas, Washington DC and Lake Como, New Jersey, the 30-year-old firm is working on projects throughout the US for top–tier public and private education and medical institutions. WHR was named the 2008 AIA Houston Firm of the Year and 2010 IIDA Texas/Oklahoma Chapter Firm of the Year. For more information visit www.whrarchitects.com