All-Steel Exterior Surrounds Animal Teaching and Research Center

There was a time when barns and sheds were prevalent on Utah State University's (USU) main campus, and cattle were sheltered and fed in places where classrooms, laboratories, and libraries now stand. Through the years, campus expansion and the changing needs of agricultural education and research moved many agricultural facilities and activities to more suitable locations.

A case-in-point is the new $7.7M Animal Teaching and Research Center at Utah State University’s College of Agriculture, which opened last May some five miles south of Logan, UT. The 20,000-sq.-ft. facility integrates the functions of a small meat harvesting plant and an animal reproduction laboratory, with classrooms to provide hands-on learning experiences. In addition to a classroom, one wing of the building includes offices and several animal physiology and reproduction labs. There is also a suite of veterinary medicine facilities, including a lab, surgery, recovery, and animal holding areas. The building’s north wing houses another classroom, USDA-inspected meat lab, refrigeration rooms, and office space.

The Design
The center consists of a 35-ft.-high central colonnade, which affords expansive views of the Bear River Range to the east and the Wellsville Mountains to the west, as well as the two research and teaching wings.

The first hurdle faced by the facility’s design firm, Jacoby Architects of Salt Lake City, was identifying the specific needs of an animal science facility. In the process, the project architect discovered that designing an appropriate space for animals calls for the use of “proper scale, lighting, and materials” and involves choices inherently different than those made in designing a building for people only.

Understanding Animal, Human Traffic Flow

“It involves learning a new trade,” acknowledged Jacoby Architects’ Joe Jacoby. “You need to obtain a good grasp of how animal and human traffic interfaces both inside and outside a research facility such as this.” Only by understanding the interaction of the two dynamics were Jacoby Architects and their consultants able to design properly functioning spaces with well-integrated mechanical and plumbing systems that would accommodate both people and animals. “While the process may be complicated, it’s exciting to figure out,” he said.

The second challenge that Jacoby faced was merging academic and industrialized work environments. “Can you imagine a work site where, twice a week, a classroom of students is able to study its operation close up as part of their learning experience?” he asked. “That’s precisely what we have in the Animal Teaching and Research Center.” As an example, Jacoby pointed to the animal harvest facility, which sits two feet below a classroom from which students can witness the kill process. Even the cold storage rooms are situated so that carcasses can be rolled via a meat rail into the classroom for students to observe.

Further complicating the design process was customizing a prefabricated metal building frame that would follow the research facility’s complex, three-dimensional geometry and design details.

Budget Demanded a Pre-Fab Building

Finally, the architect had to cope with a tight budget that prompted him, in concert with USU and the general contractor, to opt for a pre-fabricated building envelope. The exterior consists of some 25,000 sq. ft. of fluted, 4-in., insulated steel wall panels and approximately 27,000 sq. ft. of 4-in., standing-seam insulated steel roof panels in a terra cotta and zinc gray finish.

Up-front financial considerations aside, Jacoby saw some long-term benefits of specifying a metal building envelope. “It maintains a great R-value, guards against condensation and cold bridging, is quick to erect and requires virtually no maintenance,” he said. “Besides, the system selected comes with a 20-year warranty.”

Jacoby expects the building to be serviceable for at least 50 years, thanks in part to the use of 30-ft.-deep helical piers that laterally restrain key foundations from the impact of high winds and earthquakes. “Everything was designed to handle the extreme local conditions,” he said.

From the outset, Jacoby’s goal was to design an animal teaching and research center that would balance beauty and function and utilize natural light in every corner. What he achieved was a facility that blends in with the agricultural setting and has the look of a modern hay barn. At the same time, the interior projects the image of “a graceful cathedral” that, according to Jacoby, “welcomes farmers, teachers, researchers, and students alike.”