Back in the early 1970s, Building 1,
now known as J.J. Daniel Hall, was the University of North Florida’s main
It wasn’t a matter of choice. Building
1 was the first — and only — campus landmark at the time.
As the years passed, other campus
meeting points popped up. The Green has been a consistent congregation point
for students looking for a game of Frisbee or a quick nap in the sun. The Boathouse
has always been a popular spot to unwind and meet up with friends.
But in the past decade, the number of
campus landmarks has grown at an unprecedented rate. Scores of new buildings
have been either built, renovated or acquired, and the core of campus has grown
The past year has been no different. Here’s
a breakdown of four recently completed construction projects that will be
indelible campus landmarks for the next 40 years.
Biological Sciences Building
The University of North Florida’s
newest academic landmark, the glass-encased Biological Sciences Building opened
for business March 30.
The multi-purpose, $39.4 million facility finished under budget and
ahead of schedule and was paid for completely through Public Education Capital
Outlay (PECO) Funds earmarked by the state for construction.
The summer semester marked the building’s
first full semester of use. Dr. Courtney Hackney, director of the Coastal
Biology Flagship Program, oversaw much of the construction and worked closely
with crews to implement many design touches that have helped make the building
incredibly user-friendly and versatile.
Most of the teaching spaces were
designed for multipurpose usage by professors and researchers. The teaching
labs are connected to smaller prep rooms in which instructors can prepare for
classes without having to leave the building. The labs are also research-ready to give the students a
real-world perspective of working in a fully functional research environment.
This is also the seventh green building on
campus since 2005. Most of the other facilities on campus are Silver LEED
Certified from the U.S. Green Building Council, as is the Biological Sciences
Building, but Hackney said the Biological Sciences Building has been submitted
for Gold certification, which requires a higher standard of green compliance. Everything,
from the widespread use of glass as opposed to physical lighting down to the building’s
air system, was designed to work smoothly with a minimal energy footprint.
From an academic standpoint, the facility
is outfitted with specialized labs for aquatic biology classes and offers
access to a seawater system that will help researchers maintain the ideal
environment for their work. The seawater circulates through the entire building
and is pumped from a 6,000-gallon tank housed in the bowels of the facility.
The water is specially shipped from Marineland and is ideal for research
purposes. There are also non-slip floors to keep everyone on their feet, even
in the wet world of aquatics research.
Additionally, there is a specialized
necropsy lab in which marine researchers can examine or dissect sea creatures.
It’s the only lab of its kind in a four-state region, and Hackney said state
and federal officials might call on UNF when they need access to such a
high-tech facility. Even the top floor is decked out with a roof-top greenhouse
containing plants used in teaching labs as well as living corals and other
marine life for use in both teaching and research labs. The greenhouse is
temperature- and moisture-controlled so students and faculty can tweak the
living conditions of their botany projects.
from a simple numbers perspective, the new building is a huge improvement for
UNF’s biological community, Hackney said. The 116,500-square-foot facility
includes 17 teaching labs and 28 faculty research labs for aquatics, virology,
ecology, genetics, physiology, molecular biology and molecular cell biology and
the Coastal Biology program. It’s a far cry from years past when biology labs
were cramped and cluttered with research tools, and faculty offices were
distributed in myriad locations across campus.
While the building
was equipped to be as functional as possible, there are a few architectural
touches that give it a little aesthetic flash. It’s hard to miss the biology
vocabulary words engraved in the building’s façade: research, evolution, ecology
and teaching. The Tree of Life, which represents and lists the evolution of all
living creatures, is also carefully engraved into the glass walls on the conference rooms leading up all three floors.
Another noticeable landmark to join the campus skyline is
the long-awaited, 75,000-square-foot Student Wellness Complex, which opened
this summer. The $19.5 million dollar facility is an all-in-one fitness and
sports learning facility that boasts some of the best equipment and amenities
of any comparable structure in the state.
Every single fitness discipline is represented in the
building’s spacious suite of workout rooms and gym space. A 32-foot-tall
climbing wall that offers panoramic views of the three-level building and a
stand-alone Jamba Juice installation will greet visitors along with the
front-desk staff the moment guests step inside.
Three dedicated indoor group fitness rooms and one outdoor
multi-use balcony group fitness space give the staff of trained fitness instructors
the opportunity to lead four different classes simultaneously. The list of
classes is exhaustive — yoga, martial arts, group fitness — and the rooms are
adaptable to new fitness programs as well.
The Dottie Dorion Fitness Center, which encompasses about
27,000-square-feet of floor space on the second level, is more than quadruple
the size of the University’s old gym and boasts an updated assortment of cardio
and weight equipment.
Serious lifters have access to a host of sturdy
strength-training equipment and power racks. Cross-training devotees have their
own dedicated “workout of the day” area complete with muscle-up rings, pull-up
bars and a wall built to withstand the strongest medicine-ball tosses.
There is even a starter area where trainers can consult with
fitness newbies on their goals and training history in a stress-free
A 1/8-mile track on the third level circumnavigates the
perimeter of the building and offers incredible views of the campus landscape. Cardio
fans have their choice of dozens of treadmills and ellipticals — just in case
running on the indoor track gets a little stale. The Health Promotion and
Campus Recreation departments will also have offices in the complex.
Shelly Purser, director of Health
Promotion, said the facility shows the University’s commitment to offering
students and the entire campus community access to world-class health and
“Health and wellness
is important to the life of the campus, and it’s even a part of student
retention,” she said. “Students who are healthier are better equipped to attend
classes and expend the energy to get the most out of their University
experiences. This facility has a little something for everyone to find their
health goals and flourish.”
Zak Ovadia, director of Campus Planning, Design and
Construction, said the Wellness Complex ties in aesthetically with some of the
design flourishes present in its campus neighbor, the Student Union. It’s
also sustainable and green, a University requirement for any new structure.
“This building will be one of the largest and best-equipped
wellness centers in Northeast Florida,” Ovadia said. “It meets and exceeds the
students’ needs for exercise and fitness equipment and gives the University a
base for wellness activities now and into the future.”
The facility is also available to alumni for a $25 monthly
fee, or $250 for an annual membership. A full list of rates is online at www.unf.edu/recreation/swc/.
On the other side of campus alongside Lake Oneida in the beautiful
Robert W. Loftin Nature Trails, another wellness-oriented project recently
finished construction. Built primarily of wood and natural materials instead of
metal and glass, UNF’s new ropes course will allow the campus community to
reach new heights in the fall.
AyoLane Halusky, chief ranger for UNF’s Wildlife Sanctuary,
said the ropes course offers high and low-ropes activities for participants. A
group of about a dozen staffers will work in different shifts for safety
purposes whenever participants strap themselves in and start climbing.
Halusky said the course, which has been in the works since
2007 and cost roughly $250,000, was approved for construction by Student Government.
It offers individuals or groups a physical and emotional release in a serene,
“It’s about pushing yourself and learning more about your
limits,” Halusky said. “This can be done in the context of team-building
exercises or just on a personal basis. But this kind of exercise allows you to
go to a place that isn’t accessible in everyday life.”
The full structure
integrates high-ropes elements that allow participants to be suspended about 30
feet above the ground and zip line through the trees with low-ropes challenges
that have them scaling walls and maintaining balance on shifting wooden planks.
The course is only
open currently to students, but Halusky said that would later expand to alumni,
faculty, staff and outside community members. There will be a daily charge, but
rates have not been set.
“This is a
prospective changing course,” he said. “Being up there with little more than
yourself and the people you came with, it requires a certain level of mental and
spiritual strength. This isn’t just a physical challenge. We want people to
learn more about themselves when they’re up there.”
The Commons — UNF’s new dining facility
Built on the same site as UNF’s previous cafeteria, which
served Ospreys since the late 1970s, the new UNF dining facility — known as The
Commons — is a four-story monolith of flavorful food and exemplary service.
The old cafeteria — a one-story building that was one of the
oldest structures on campus — was demolished in mid-2011. Construction of the
new, $13-million facility started in May 2011, and it opened this August.
follows a similar model to other new campus structures — heavy on glass and
natural light while being mandated to achieve at least USGBC LEED Silver
Certification. Overlooking UNF’s Candy Cane Lake, it offers a picturesque view
of the campus’ natural landscape while being positioned in a readily accessible
location for hungry students, faculty and staff.
stepping foot in the 26,000-square-foot, first-and-second floor Osprey Café dining
area, diners familiar with the older facility will undoubtedly be impressed by
the widespread improvements to the menu and front-of-house service.
cuisines — everything from grilled favorites to healthier vegan and gluten-free
fare or varied ethnic staples — will be split into separate pods. There will be
no reheating or microwaved food — everything will be made fresh in front of
Jordan, resident district manager for Chartwells, said there will be a total of
10 different points of service with two separate action stations where
Chartwells chefs will prepare the day’s special.
“People who come in for the first time, they
might be a little overwhelmed with all the food choices,” he said. “There are
so many options, they’ll spend some time wondering where to go.”
The new facility is a massive improvement in every area of
comparison to the old dining hall, Jordan said.
It’s open longer hours. It has a larger staff of about 60
part-time student and full-time workers. It also has three additional floors
and office space for Facilities Planning staff on the third floor. The fourth
floor boasts a dedicated Faculty Lounge with a warming kitchen, bar and other
amenities. On the same floor is the Talon Room, a sprawling ballroom that can
be used to host University functions.
construction crew was even led by one of UNF’s own. Will Schat, a 1994 construction management graduate, served as the
project director for Barton Malow, the company in charge of the build. Two
other graduates of construction management were also involved in the The
Commons project: Denny Bucy,
Miller Electric Company project manager; and Ryan Schmitt, president of Petticoat Schmitt Contracting, Inc.