OMRF broke ground today on its new research tower, marking the start of a campus expansion that will nearly double the foundation’s size.
The new tower will not only add 185,000 square feet of laboratory, administrative and clinical research space, but it will be the first medical research facility anywhere to generate a portion of its power through wind. It will do so through 24 wind turbines—uniquely designed in the shape of DNA molecules—that will sit atop its roof.
At the ceremony, OMRF unveiled one of the turbines, a 20-foot-tall, helix-shaped apparatus that immediately began spinning in the wind. The turbines, whose design is being patented, are soundless and shrouded in materials that accelerate the speed of the wind to double the output. Each year, they will generate 58,000 kilowatt hours of the tower’s electricity.
“This is a watershed moment for OMRF,” OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D., told the crowd of several hundred OMRF employees, board members and visitors at the ceremony. “With this tower, OMRF and Oklahoma will be positioned on the leading edge of biomedical research for many years to come.”
Following completion, the tower is expected to house 300 new OMRF researchers, physicians, technicians and staff members. The total project cost, including construction, equipment, furnishings and recruitment packages for 30 senior-level scientists, is projected to be $125 million. To date, $50 million has been raised for the project, with a lead grant of $15 million from the Oklahoma Opportunity Fund.
“Time and again, the residents of Oklahoma have shown that this is a forward-thinking state with a pioneering spirit,” said Gov. Brad Henry, who spoke at the event. “This is a bold investment that will pay major dividends for our state’s health, environment and economic development. It will, quite literally, transform the future of medical research in Oklahoma.”
When completed, the tower will house a state-of-the-art research clinic for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases. It will also be home to 34 new laboratories, where scientists will probe medical problems ranging from heart disease to arthritis and immunology. The building is expected to be ready for occupancy by the spring of 2011.
The facility, which will sit directly north of OMRF’s main building at 825 Northeast 13th Street, will become Oklahoma’s second gold-certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building. Innovative technologies, the most visible of which will be the tower’s helix-shaped wind turbines, will work in concert with other energy-saving features to decrease electricity usage by 37 percent and total power use by 17 percent.
Newly developed energy management systems will be harnessed to cut electricity usage, while unique window and wall designs will bring natural daylight deep inside the tower to reduce electrical lighting. A living roof and rain garden will prevent runoff pollution and insulate the building. Water consumption will be reduced by recycling condensation from the air conditioning system and by using native plants in landscaping.
Prescott emphasized that the building is the physical manifestation of an expansion that began in 2008, when OMRF successfully recruited seven new principal scientists from Duke University, the University of North Carolina, Yale University, the Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University, the National Institutes of Health and London’s Imperial College of Medicine.
“A building is only as special as the people inside it,” said Prescott. “This tower will be home to world-class researchers who will drive the next generation of life-changing discoveries. These scientists will not only develop a deeper understanding of the human body; they’ll transform those breakthroughs into diagnostics and treatments for Oklahomans and people everywhere.”