$135 million ISR building opening

The ISR building and tower purposely were nestled behind this cut in the hill to symbolize the state’s extraction economy, with the tower as an icon to new technology, Durbin said.

When Brian Lemoff reports to work Monday morning at the Institute for Scientific Research, he will know exactly where to go: the shiny new aluminum building with a tower out front beckoning from a hillside off Interstate 79.

That means that each day, Lemoff, director of physical sciences and technology, will no longer have to figure out which of ISR’s current four locations he needs to visit first.

“I’ve had an office both at Veterans’ Square and at the Middletown Mall. And I’ve had to shuttle back and forth between those two offices since I joined, because the people I was working for were downtown and the people who work for me were either at the mall or the (Marion County) industrial park,” Lemoff said.

After about five years of construction, ISR employees have started moving into the 263,000-square-foot, $135 million building that they officially will call home as of Monday.

And it’s a big relief for Lemoff for more than one reason.

“The single-biggest effect it will have is that it will allow all of our employees to be under one roof,” Lemoff said. “In research, one of the biggest parts of the job is collaboration and joint effort with other researchers. It’s often very difficult to collaborate with people who are at other sites.”

ISR’s 50 or so employees have been split among four locations, Lemoff noted, including downtown at Veterans’ Square, the Middletown Mall, the industrial park and Rodeo Drive.

“I’m looking forward to having one office,” he said.

But that’s not the only advantage that the state-of-the-art building offers to a scientist such as Lemoff, who develops optical sensing technology as well as micro-electrical mechanical systems (MEMS).

“The second big advantage is the laboratory facilities here,” he said. “There’s room here to start new projects that we never would have been able to imagine undertaking in our current facilities, and there’s also room to scale those projects up if they are successful and begin some small-scale manufacturing, all within this building.”

Last week, workers were adding finishing touches to the building, which will be taking place for at least another six months. David Durbin, a private consultant who has been coordinating the project on-site, provided a tour of the futuristic space where Liquid Crystal Display screens on various walls will offer ongoing messages and announcements to passersby.

In one large, rectangular room that could be used for a high-tech trade show, a 9x16-foot rear screen projection stands at one end.

“If there’s something going on or events, or some technological thing going on anywhere in the world, it can be displayed here,” Durbin said. “All of the projection and LCDs tie into a central point in the building, so if there is some event or some presentations being made, they could be displayed.”

Rooms have been wired with data ports, including each desk area of the 200-seat auditorium. The auditorium features four translation booths for multi-lingual events, Durbin said, and is fully-equipped for teleconferencing.

Someone’s image can be projected up on the screen for the purposes of distance learning or teleconference meetings, Durbin said.

“You’ve got rear screen projections here and the cameras, which are mounted, and what that will do is that screen has the ability to be split,” he said. “It could be multinational-type clients that they need to communicate with. Like Brian said, it really gives them that extra edge to go out and do some cutting-edge activities. People can link up overseas if they need to team up.”

Also providing some flexibility are the floors on the upper levels, which have been raised 2 feet off the floor so that they can be reconfigured depending on needs.

“What goes in there is all the mechanical and electrical” outlets, Durbin said. “It makes it so you can modify it if you want to change a lab or put in data ports. It’s very versatile.”

About 65 security cameras have been placed throughout the five-story building, which also features an alarm system that will prompt large metal doors to drop to the ground and close if activated.

The structure was certified by the U.S. Green Building Council (www.usgbc.com) as having been environmentally built, Durbin said. That means recycled materials were used and high-efficiency light bulbs will illuminate the offices and labs in the finished building. Also, the distance that the construction materials had to be moved in order to be used also was calculated in a point system that determined the building had earned the ranking.

“It’s a designation that’s becoming more and more prominent,” Durbin said.

The tower, visible from I-79, serves a few different purposes. It hides the stairwell and elevator shaft that will take employees to the 500 parking spaces adjacent to the building.

Also, it hides the satellite dishes housed in the top of the tower that provide links to the world, with a radio transparent enclosure so the dishes are not visible.

Finally, the tower, placed in a cut of the earth, symbolizes a new direction that the West Virginia economy has been taking.

“We were trying to nestle the building into the environment, not flatten it and stick it on top,” Durbin said. “So that’s why it’s behind the hill. The idea was also to emphasize that the cut sort of symbolizes the extraction economy, coal and so forth. You go through there and there is an icon of technology.”

E-mail Mary Wade Burnside at mwburnside@timeswv.com.

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