HOUGHTON - The new, state-of-the-art Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Technological University is open for business and will host classes in the fall.
The center, which has been in the making for several years, was dedicated Thursday afternoon before a crowd of Tech faculty, staff, students and alumni, and community members.
Standing at a podium near a black ribbon, President Glenn Mroz began by thanking several people, including state representatives and the university's Board of Control, for making the dream center a reality.
Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
Michigan Technological University President Glenn Mroz addresses a crowd at the opening of the Great Lakes Research Center Thursday. The state-of-the-art facility features a harbor, aquatic laboratories, a green roof, gardens and office space.
"These are the people with the intestinal fortitude to say, 'We're going to go ahead with a project,' and they really did an outstanding job," he said.
The three-story, 50,000 square foot center boasts everything from aquatic laboratories to a green roof coated in colorful flowers. Docks framing the research center harbor boats for water research and connected to the building is a large boathouse.
Mroz said the building was an ambitious undertaking for the university and interest generated in tackling water research on nearby Lake Superior pushed the project to completion. With the water source right at Tech's fingertips, the idea to build an innovative center with laboratories for all stages of learning, was a no-brainer.
"If you look at the world's water supply, 70 percent of the earth's surface is covered by water," Mroz said. "Only two and a half percent of it is freshwater."
With about 7 billion people on the planet, about 1 billion don't have access to clean water, he said.
"When you look at this body of water, more than 35 million people rely on this for jobs and their way of life," he said. "That's 8 percent of the (United States) population and 32 percent of Canada's population."
With threats to freshwater occurring constantly, the GLRC will play a large role in widespread issues by offering research on invasive species and other matters.
To make the center come to fruition, a commitment of $25 million was needed, and the state of Michigan provided about 75 percent of the funding.
"We are thankful to the state for realizing that research and education are essential to the stewardship of the Great Lakes region," Mroz said.
The building, settled along the Portage Lake Canal on the edge of campus, features space for schoolchildren to come and learn about water resources, as well. The building features open ceilings for easy access to plumbing and piping and follows a nautical theme with sand-colored floors and blue walls. The center has eight laboratories, eight gardens, high-tech computers able to receive data on weather and water conditions from nine local buoys. It houses no specific department and is easily reconfigurable. Each of the three green-roof sections will help cool the building in the summer, and in the winter, the center will be heated by using hot water collected from a heat exchanger installed in the university's main boiler. The second floor has a Great Room overlooking the water which is already being booked for wedding receptions.
Steve Hicks, chair of the Board of Control, thanked those involved on behalf of the board and said the university is very focused on the strategic direction in water resources.
"This fine building that has been constructed and the research it will contain in the future, is really a prime example of what Tech is all about," he said.
The center also has a new director in Guy Meadows, who comes to Michigan Tech from the University of Michigan.
"This facility is built on an enormously strong foundation from decades of work here on the Great Lakes," he said.
After the ribbon cutting by the Board of Control, tours by students filtered in and out of the building, showcasing the laboratories and office spaces. Nancy Auer, associate professor in biological sciences, opened her lab to show groups of people sturgeon swimming in tanks.