At its regular meeting in May, the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees unanimously approved a request from the Fayetteville campus for a 20% budget increase for the construction of the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research (I3R).
The amount of the new capital project is $137.6 million, compared to $114 million previously. According to a letter to the board from UA System President Donald Bobbitt, additional funding is needed to address rising construction costs and to complete construction of research lab space.
Most of the funding for the facility will come from a $194.7 million grant from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, one of the largest private gifts ever given to a university to advance research and development. economic development.
AU officials announced the donation in July 2020, and it supports several initiatives, including I3R, which will support the commercialization of interdisciplinary research.
At the November 2020 UA System Board meeting, UA officials presented the facility with an estimated project cost of $114 million for a building between 125,000 and 130,000 square feet. Approximately 17,150 square feet of lab space was not fully built during initial planning to accommodate budget.
In October 2021, AU hired Dr. Ranu Jung as Founding Director of I3R. According to documents from the board meeting, Jung’s arrival “clarified and refined” the institution’s research focus to build the university’s interdisciplinary research capacity. I3R research will focus on five areas – food and technology, data science, materials science and engineering, bioscience and bioengineering research in metabolism, and integrative systems neuroscience.
The design phase of the building was recently completed with a final size of 141,000 square feet. Completing the additional lab space is expected to cost $10 million, which the AU hopes to fund through research grants and private donations. It is included in the funding request so that work can continue if funds are secured.
The additional funding addresses “potential exposure to construction escalation” during the final tender.
“The request for additional capital funding is intended to meet the needs of the institute’s already expanding program and address historic construction inflation pressures,” Bobbitt wrote in a supporting letter to trustees. of Robinson’s request. “The entire ‘I3R’ team is committed to the successful completion of the project and continues to design with discretion, estimate conservatively, and seek out smart bidding strategies that provide a degree of flexibility in price and scope to manage this volatile auction environment.”
The AU held a groundbreaking ceremony for the I3R on April 1 at the southeast corner of Dickson and Duncan streets on the southeast side of the UA campus. CDI Contractors is the general contractor. Hufft and Hammel, Green and Abrahamson (HGA) led the design work.
Expected completion is June 2024.