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WKU’s Ogden College Hall first educational lab in nation to achieve WELL v2 Gold Certification

Western Kentucky University’s Ogden College Hall is the first educational laboratory in the United States to achieve WELL v2 Gold Certification by the International WELL Building Institute, maximizing the safety, health and overall wellness of the building’s occupants.

That certification ranks it as the healthiest university lab building in the world.

“We wanted this multi-departmental science building to be student friendly, utilitarian, energy efficient and a healthy environment for work and learning,” WKU Provost Cheryl Stevens said. “We are proud of the final result and look forward to enhanced student learning in its innovative spaces.”

Ogden College Hall opened in 2018, replacing an aging lab building from the 1960s. In addition to a student-focused design of lab and other spaces that provided innovative opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, project stakeholders made student health and wellbeing a priority by seeking a design to meet the WELL Gold standard, even with a tight budget.

Tracy Steward of CMTA Consulting Engineers, who was the WELL Project Administrator and Design Engineering Project Manager, said the WELL standards are usually reserved for office and commercial buildings, but the principles are just as important in educational settings.

“When insurmountable research and data proves time spent in buildings has a direct impact on health and productivity, we need to take action by designing our built environments in an optimal manner,” Steward said. “As humans, our bodies are designed to connect with nature. If we can bring the daylight that supports circadian rhythm, clean air, comfortable space, views of nature or spaces that mimic nature, provide food options where we can actually pronounce the ingredients, then we certainly need to provide that for future generations.

By living and working in WELL spaces, the concepts have a proven way to help reduce illness, anxiety and depression, and brighten the outlooks of those who are occupying the space.”

Buildings are scored on a point system and it takes 60 points to become WELL Gold certified.

“Ogden College Hall knocked it out of the park by accumulating 73 points,” Steward said. “The design strategies utilized and established at WKU will be used as the standard moving into 2020.”

Informational displays throughout the building encourage students to consider the numerous benefits of healthy living and enable the building to serve as a teaching tool.

“As a student-centered, applied research university, we are concerned about the total WKU experience,” Dr. Stevens said. “This project is a perfect example of how we can be intentional in how we design our buildings to have the biggest positive impact, physically and mentally, on all occupants, especially our students.”

The $40 million 82,889 square-foot building features 36 laboratories for biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy as well as interdisciplinary research laboratories for materials science, biodiversity and biochemistry; a student success center and advising suite; a 300-seat auditorium; and the dean’s office suite for the Ogden College of Science and Engineering. In addition to research, teaching and lab space, the building includes student lounge/study areas on each floor that encourage collaborative learning.

The “Science on Display” design earned international recognition in the 2018 Shaw Contract Design Awards program in the Higher Education category and the People’s Choice Award.

From Western Kentucky University

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