UI Dentistry building undergoing major renovations

BY ALY BROWN | JUNE 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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Students, faculty, and patients at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry are getting new digs as part of a major renovation project. The Dental Science Building has not been renovated at this scale since its construction in 1973.

Dentistry College Dean David Johnsen said the building has needed work for a while.

"The purpose of the building is to engage patients, students, colleagues, and the state as a whole, and the renovations contribute to this," he said.

The renovations are part of a major $62 million project, including the new 33,000-square-foot patient-care addition, improved research labs, and simulation clinic.

Officials recently increased the pre-dentistry program's class size from 71 students to 80, Johnsen said.

Scott Arneson, the dental school's associate dean for finance and facilities, said the economic downturn allowed for competitive bidding prices.

"Two years ago in the economic downturn, the bidding environment was good for us," he said. "We got a lot more work for the same amount of money."

The state supplied a $29 million allocation for the project, and the UI central administration contributed $11 million, Arneson said. The college raised $11 million in its building fundraising campaign and from a Roy J. Carver grant. The rest came from existing college resources, including clinical earnings, a new technology budget, and existing gifts.

Clark Stanford, a dental school associate dean for research, said the new north fourth-floor research lab allows researchers more space to work.

"The new space is inherently more sustainable, and allows for more flexibility," he said. "Researchers get more space to accomplish their work."

But Stanford said some researchers have had to adjust to the collaborative lab atmosphere.

"Some researchers are accustomed to individual lab space, so the reassignment to a group lab environment can be politically touchy," he said.

Johnsen said the building has not undergone major renovations until now because officials wanted to be sure the college would not need to move to accommodate the growing UI Hospital.

"We have had to make some major decisions, both in regards to the location and making sure the building can structurally handle the renovations," he said.

The building was originally constructed to revolve around lecture-based instruction and individual lab spaces, Johnsen said.

"We are doing a lot more teaching with students," he said. "We are doing more case-based instruction, as opposed to lecturing at them."

The renovations follow scientific progress, expanding smaller labs built for microscopy to larger environments for molecular biology equipment.

"Technology is just exploding," he said. "Looking ahead, we wanted to make space for new technology. They no longer make replacement parts for our old technology."

Officials are gutting entire floor areas, forcing departments to play musical chairs with available spaces. The project is in six basic segments, plus infrastructure including more sustainable heating and air conditioning. Each segment should take roughly seven months, and Johnsen is hoping to be finished after 42 months since the project's inception.

The college now has lockers, showers, and expanded bike racks to encourage student wellness.

Officials are experimenting with alternative classroom designs, including implementing round tables akin to those seen in the Transform, Interact, Learn, Engage (TILE) classrooms.

Johnsen said the state-of-the-art renovations will aid in maintaining the school's status as a leader in dental research and education.

"We want the college to be an ambassador for the state of Iowa," he said. "We are very proud."

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