Western Washington University’s Biology Building: It Grows on You

When people think about college life, they think about large lecture classes, difficult exams, or maybe even a party or two, but what most people may not think about are the buildings on campus where these, and many other college experiences, occur. The academic buildings, in particular, may seem intimidating, especially those that house classes outside of a student’s major, or more importantly, his or her comfort zone. That is why it is so important to have buildings that are inviting and easily accessible. It is obvious that much thought has gone into the buildings at Western Washington University to give them this appeal. However, there is one building, in particular, that stands out.

The Biology Building at WWU

The biology building at Western Washington University located in Bellingham, Washington, is as up-to-date as it is welcoming — two important features for biology majors as well as non-biology majors. The university’s website has a wonderful description of the building: “Western’s 82,000-square-foot Biology Building, features teaching labs, research labs, environmental control rooms, a seawater lab, image analysis labs, and multimedia lecture halls. The Biology department also maintains a greenhouse on campus that supports teaching and research activities” (“Biology-General Emphasis, BS.”). All these features make the biology building more relevant to the real-world issues happening in the field of biology.

A Look at the Building from the Outside

From the outside, the first aspect of the building that always catches my attention is the beautiful, natural-looking landscape that surrounds it. It is always well-kept, which makes the building more inviting. Others appreciate the beautiful plants, which only draws more attention to what the building helps us learn more about — biology. Also, with our biology lectures talking about ways of preventing global warming and the dangers of dead zones from eutrophication, it seems appropriate that the landscape itself reminds us to be more aware of our environment. In addition to the landscaping, the modern architecture gives the building a more sophisticated look, which is carried out in the interior of the building as well.

Functionality and Fish Tanks: A Look at the Inside of the Building

Upon entering the biology building, students and faculty are greeted with white marble floors, a long wooden bench, and an amazing staircase. Passing by the rooms, one can see the modern lab equipment and supplies available in each classroom. However, the functionality of the equipment is well-balanced by the beauty of the fish tanks — another example of how this building connects the classroom learning with the practical application of observing and appreciating nature.

Two more great features of this building are its location and layout. Compared to other buildings on campus, the biology building is much easier to navigate since most of the classrooms are located off the two main hallways. Lastly, the new furnishings and modern technology keep students comfortable and focused during long lectures and complicated labs. However, there are a few downsides to this building as well.

A Few Disadvantages of the Biology Building

For the size of the building, one would expect more restrooms and/or restrooms that are easier to access from any of the classrooms. Also, all the modern, high-quality equipment is more complicated to use than what most students are familiar with from their high school classrooms.

However, one underutilized feature of the building is using it as a “learning tool” in and of itself. Such is the case with the new $29.8-million Life Sciences Building at Suffolk County Community College (SCCC). This “cutting-edge educational and research facility is aiming for LEED Gold certification, indicating the highest level of sustainability in design and construction” (Rettig). Roger Smith, the BBS Principal Architect for the project, explains it this way:

“It incorporates pioneering sustainability and educational features, such as interactive boards displaying — in real-time — the building’s sustainability data and power performance. You can literally walk around and watch the building work” (Rettig).

While Western Washington University’s biology building incorporates a few of these features, it does not incorporate all of them. It would be interesting to see how incorporating more sustainability features in the building itself could turn it into a learning tool for biology students, especially those focused on the environmental aspects of the life sciences.

All in all, the biology building at Western has more advantages than disadvantages. Its modern technology and inviting atmosphere help to make students who are only there for a few classes as comfortable as students who are majoring in biology. I hope it continues to evolve to meet the changing demands of the school and, in doing so, become a building other universities model their academic buildings after.

Works Cited

“Bio Building.” N.d. Western Washington University. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.

“Biology-General Emphasis, BS.” Western Washington University. WWU, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.

Miller, Alex. “Biology Building: One Student’s Opinion.” Personal interview. 25 Jan. 2016.

Rettig, Joseph. “Building’s Design Reflects Campus, Science Collaborations.” Laboratory Equipment. Laboratory Equipment, 01 May 2015. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.

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