Shared Vision Drives Progress on NBS Building

June 15, 2012

The School of Arts and Sciences has reached an important milestone in its Making History Campaign. With a total of $33 million in external support for the Neural and Behavioral Sciences Building, this critical priority has now entered the formal design phase –a major step in moving a new construction project from concept to reality. 

The project, according to SAS Dean Rebecca Bushnell, is significant on many levels.  “It’s really providing a new model for us in terms of how we think about facilities projects,” she said.  “In the past, we typically approached new buildings as a way of meeting the needs of a specific department. But our approach with the NBS Building is driven by more strategic, collaborative thinking—we’re designing a building that will support the School’s priorities across departmental lines. This includes advancing exciting lines of research, attracting the best faculty in the life sciences, and providing first-rate facilities to support some of our most popular undergraduate programs.” 

“Collaborative” may be the best word to describe the project’s funding as well. Unlike many building projects at Penn, where most of the support comes from a single naming gift, support for the NBS Building has come from major gifts from 18 donors.  A number of these gifts came from members of the SAS Board of Overseers, who pulled together last fall to bridge the financial gap required to allow the project to proceed. SAS Board Chair David Silfen, C’66, noted that he and other members of the board were “inspired by Dean Bushnell’s vision for the School, and we recognized that this project is critical to her vision and to the success of SAS’s campaign.”  Taken together, gifts from SAS overseers account for two thirds of the funds raised to date for this project.

The NBS Building will be situated next to Kaskey Memorial Park and will connect the Carolyn Lynch and Leidy Laboratories, creating a life sciences corridor for the School of Arts and Sciences right next door to major facilities of the Perelman School of Medicine. This location is expected to foster interaction and collaboration across school and department boundaries. State-of-the-art teaching spaces such as a 150-seat sunken auditorium and new teaching laboratories will benefit the large number of Penn undergraduates who major either in Biology, Psychology, or the Biology Basis of Behavior program. In addition the building will provide a dedicated home for the Psychology major as well as BBB—one of Penn’s signature interdisciplinary majors.

The building will also expand on Penn’s commitment to sustainability. The project architects, SmithGroup, are experts in sustainable design, and design features are consistent with Silver-level LEED certification. The building’s distinctive design has already been recognized with a Virginia Society AIA Jury Citation for Excellence in Design and an Honor Award from the Washington, DC AIA.