University of Vermont

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

New Plant Science Building Comes Alive with Research

Jeffords Hall plant sciences teaching labs, classrooms and offices are operating since the building's May 8 dedication, in which, lower right, Laura Jeffords spoke on her father's behalf while, from left Daniel Koenemann '10, State Agriculture Secy. Roger Albee and former Jeffords staffers Tom Berry and Robert Cioffi listened before their turns at the podium. ~Cheryl Dorschner photos.

In a third-floor conference room with panoramic views of Mount Mansfield and Camel's Hump, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) advisors sipped coffee while discussing the launch of the College's Dairy Center of Excellence.

Down the hall, Daniel Koenemann '10 worked on genetic analysis of ferns as part of ongoing research in Professor David Barrington's lab — Koenemann's summer job.

In the northwest corner of the outdoor landscape, a cherry tree was setting down new roots. It had been planted on May 8 during the building's dedication ceremony.

In classrooms, labs, gardens, offices and study nooks, James M. Jeffords Hall has come to life on the University of Vermont campus.

No longer a construction site or an empty building tour destination, this new plant sciences facility hums with the voices of people and leading edge research, communications and HVAC gizmos. For example:

  • Sensors react to daylight by adjusting electric light only as needed.
  • Infrared motion scanners adjust temperature and lights to 50 percent in unused rooms.
  • Odors and fumes are whisked away through hidden vents built into the anatomy labs' chemical resistant tabletops.
  • Fresh, preconditioned air moves in and out of the laboratories; even classrooms recirculate no more that 10 percent of the air.
  • Presentation screens and window shades bow and curtsy with the touch of remotes while computer presentations glow in darkened rooms.

Energy efficiencies such as these earned the 97,000-square-foot building a gold LEED certification — a standard measure of energy and environmental design. Other features contributing to its "green" building status are estimates that it will use almost 36 percent less energy and half the water of conventionally designed labs, the fact that 90 percent of the construction waste was diverted from the landfill and 75 percent of building materials were manufactured within a 500-mile range. Ellenzweig Associates of Cambridge, Mass. and Freeman French Freeman of Burlington designed Jeffords Hall. The building was nine years in planning since its inception; completed three years after UVM trustees approved the project.

High Hopes for Research, Scholarship

These traits, along with those picture-perfect views and interior earth tones, wood patterns and plant designs; make it a dream to work and learn in this space.

Twenty-four research groups, 50 faculty and as many graduate students have already picked up their research on many topics including: the effects of climate change, the underpinnings of invasive plant behavior, sustainable agriculture methods, cellular communication between bacteria and nitrogen-fixing legumes and diversity of Vermont fiddlehead ferns.

"Jeffords Hall is a long-term investment that makes it possible to continue our tradition of excellence in teaching and research in the life sciences and will benefit Vermont students and the citizens of this state," CALS Dean Tom Vogelmann told a reporter at the facility's May 8 dedication. "The building is expected to be a significant recruiting tool for attracting high school students interested in studying the life sciences in a state-of-the-art facility under the guidance of top researchers, said Vogelmann, himself a plant biology professor.

That investment was $55.7 million for the building alone. UVM leveraged $10 million in state funds, $3 million in federal funds secured by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy after Sen. Jeffords' retirement, and private donations that include $1 million from Vermont's Lintilhac Foundation.

Laura Jeffords attended dedication ceremonies May 8 and spoke on behalf of her father, whose 76th birthday was just three later. "This fantastic new academic building will lead to so many new beginnings: new research, new discoveries, new thinking, and new successes — for students, for Vermont and for the nation," she said. "I am so pleased to join you in honoring my dad in such an important and meaningful way. I know he would tell you this building represents Vermont's past, and more importantly, its future."

James Jeffords, a Rutland attorney, served in the U.S. Congress from 1975-1989 and in the Senate from 1989-2007. He chaired committees on education and the environment.

State Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets Roger Allbee alluded to Jeffords' work in education, environment and agriculture and his 2001 departure from the Republican Party when at the dedication podium Albee said, "this building symbolizes (Jeffords) in so many ways. It has a solid foundation, cannot be swayed by either the right, left or even center. It stands atop the hill, stands out one among many, looks out over Vermont … the things (he) fought for so valiantly."

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