New lab makes research easier at Blandy
Posted: November 6, 2012
The Winchester Star
BOYCE — When David Carr took over as director of the University of Virginia’s Blandy Experimental Farm and State Arboretum in 2009, one of his dreams was a new laboratory to house the science research being done there.
At the time, he said, he was already working on a design to replace rooms in the 200-year-old Quarters building used by Blandy’s first director, Orland White Jr., in the 1920s. A new lab seemed like a stretch.
Three years later, Carr is smiling because Blandy now has a new, million-dollar facility, where researchers worked all summer.
“We had 32 people here,” Carr said as he showed off the space last week. “It’s the first time ever we’ve had enough room.”
The white building with a red metal roof can be seen to the east as visitors come into the arboretum on the main drive.
The structure has two main research rooms, plenty of table space for laptop computers, test tubes and microscopes. Each room is 800-square feet in area — as large as the old laboratory room in the Quarters.
“We kept the floor plan as open as possible,” Carr said, ”because we don’t know what research will happen in 10 to 20 years.”
The openness also allows the researchers to discuss their work with others in the room.
The old laboratory was so small and stifling that graduate students and other researchers avoided it as much as possible.
“Now, it’s a gathering place,” Carr said, and discussions with other scientists can broaden the education of all.
At the east end of the building are two smaller rooms, so visiting researchers from colleges and universities have their own space for their research work.
On the southwest end, a separate room was constructed for the fume hood. This piece of machinery allows the researchers to use a variety of chemicals, which must be exhausted into the open air.
“If you inhale them, they will make you sick,” Carr said. “To use them safely, you have to use a fume hood.”
But, he said, such hoods exhaust the air in a room completely and continuously. And that is expensive.
That’s why there is a separate fume hood room. Exhausting all the air in a room wastes money in either heat or air conditioning, he said.
“It’s a big energy drain on the system,” Carr said.
By confining the fume hood to is own, smaller room, Blandy will be saving energy.
A separate ”processing room” also was constructed for the drying and refrigeration equipment. Heat from these machines would affect the cost of air conditioning the main laboratory space, if they were in the same room.
Also, he noted, the machinery is “essential, but noisy.”
The building also has an “environmental room,” where researchers can raise insects or plants they need. The lighting and temperature here can be controlled separately from the rest of the building.
And, the building also has a small conference room on its northwest side, looking out on the arboretum grounds.
In building the new laboratory, Carr said he was going for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council — a measure of the energy saving qualities of a structure.
Much of the material used to construct the building is recycled, he pointed out, and as much as possible came from the local area.
Carr will have to wait to see what certification rating the building will get, because it must operate for some time to gauge energy consumption before that can be determined, but he’s hoping to reach the second — or silver — level.
Rea Manderino, a graduate student doing research on the effect of gypsy moth control on other insects in Shenandoah National Park, said her second summer working at Blandy was like “night and day” when the new laboratory opened “on my birthday.”
“You don’t know how satisfying it is,” she said, “that I don’t have to move my stuff. I can stay here and be a real graduate student.”
Manderino agreed that there was a lot more socializing among the researchers this past summer, with the new facilities.
“It’s very communal.”
Carr said most of the cost of the building was saved over the years by Blandy, but he also wrote a grant to the National Science Foundation, which brought in $350,000.
The University of Virginia’s College of Arts and Sciences also contributed to the cost.
He said Lantz Construction of Broadway broke ground on the building in September 2011 and completed the structure in May.
“It felt great to make this happen and see everybody using it,” he said. “I know how difficult it’s been for our students.”
The laboratory will be a resource not just for University of Virginia students but for environmental science researchers from all over the country, Carr said.
“I hope we will attract new researchers and new research.”
— Contact Val Van Meter at firstname.lastname@example.org