Breaking new ground with the Human Health Building

By Mike Sandula

Hundreds gathered under a large, white tent on the northeast corner of Parking Lot 1 on Monday morning for the groundbreaking ceremony of Oakland University’s Human Health Building.

“Beginning in 2012, OU’s School of Health Sciences and School of Nursing will relocate to this new 161,000 square foot Human Health Building, bringing two schools under one roof for the first time in university history,” said Kenneth Hightower, dean of Health Sciences.

Hightower introduced a series of speakers that ranged from OU President Gary Russi and board of trustees members to Oakland students and congressmen.

“Through our growth in the legislature we’ve seen the need for buildings and capital outlay which, in fact, provides jobs and provides help in our economy,” said Sen. Michelle McManus, R-Lake Leelanau.

Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, and officials from the cities of Rochester Hills, Rochester and Auburn Hills were also present.

Following the brief presentations, which thanked those who helped in the funding and the development of the project and highlighted its features, the event moved outside.

Select groups of people stood alongside Russi and shoveled commemorative piles of dirt at the proposed site of the building, which is slated to open in fall 2012.

The five-story building — the newest addition to campus since Carlotta and Dennis Pawley Hall was constructed in 2004 — will reside on the northwest corner of campus.

It will house both the School of Nursing and the School of Health Sciences. The OU William Beaumont School of Medicine currently has no involvement with the Human Health Building and is housed in O’Dowd Hall.

OU nursing faculty had a table displaying a life-like model that nursing students use to simulate child rearing. They’ve used such models — which can cry, breath and turn blue — for a while, but only have a few and would be able to expand the program in the new facility.

“This exciting new complex … will open a vast array of opportunities that will allow our students to master the expert innovations and real world approaches in the delivery of health care,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Virinder Moudgil.

Additionally, Patricia Ketchum, director of nursing laboratories, said she looks forward to being so close to the School of Health Sciences.

Emily Wilson, a third year health sciences student who spoke during the presentation, also looks forward to the advantages of the two schools being housed in the same building.

“This interaction will provide the opportunity to become aware of the needs of other professionals and to prepare us to effectively work together for the benefit of our patients,” Wilson said.

The Human Health Building, which

was designed by the Detroit office of Smith Group architectural firm, is priced at $62 million.

About $40 million will come from the State of Michigan’s capital outlay projects fund.

The rest will come largely from general revenue bonds issued last year, which also raised an additional $11 million that will go toward “related infrastructure and technology improvements.”

No public funding will go toward financing the building, according to John Beaghan, vice president of finance and administration.

Additionally, OU received a $2.7 million grant last week from the U.S. Department of Energy that will go toward making the building eco-friendly.

OU has also been given a $75,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation, which offers grants to non-profit organizations they deem successful in select areas, including health and the environment.

“When completed, the building will include a water conservation system, enhanced air quality system and a geothermal heating and cooling system that will cut energy costs about 50 percent,” Russi said.

Once the project is finished, Russi said OU would apply for platinum certification from the U.S. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system.

Platinum is the highest certification available, and if the Human Health Building earns it, the building would become the first educational facility in the state to earn such a designation.

Oakland has seen a steady increase in enrollment in recent years and the new partnership with William Beaumont Hospital is likely to boost the student population still more.

“In fall, our head count was just a stone’s throw from 19,000; I fully expect we will top that this fall,” said board of trustees chair Jackie Long.

Total student enrollment has risen by roughly 80 percent since the mid-1990s.

In addition to new classrooms and seminar facilities, the building will include an interactive media center and clinical labs.

Diane Norris, dean of the School of Nursing, said students would work with more than 35 hospitals, clinics and healthcare providers.

“Without a doubt we are and will continue to be a key player in efforts to shape our community as a premier destination for superior health care,” Long said.