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Construction to start soon on new Juneau Forestry Laboratory at Auke Lake

Posted: July 27, 2011 - 8:22pm
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Paul Brewster, Assistant Director for Program Development for the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service, shows the location of their a building Wednesday to house offices and laboratories near the University of Alaska Southeast campus and Auke Lake. Construction is expected to start in August and take about 18 months.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Paul Brewster, Assistant Director for Program Development for the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service, shows the location of their a building Wednesday to house offices and laboratories near the University of Alaska Southeast campus and Auke Lake. Construction is expected to start in August and take about 18 months.

After years operating in second-hand quarters, the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station’s Juneau Forestry Laboratory is just 18 months away from moving into its new home.

“This project has been sort of a dream of the U.S. Forest Service going back 30-40 years,” said Paul Brewster, who oversees the facility.

“It’s just in the last couple of years that final funding has become available,” he said.

Construction is expected to begin within a few weeks, he said.

The Juneau office of the Pacific Northwest Research Station is one of several in Alaska, Oregon and Washington that provides scientific information to land managers, policy makers and others.

Construction on the new two-story, 11,000-square-foot building will begin very shortly, with construction expected to last 11/2 years, Brewster said.

The primary contractor for the building is Dawson Construction. It was designed by MRV Architects. The projected cost is $8.3 million.

For years the research station was located in general office space in the Juneau Federal Building, then in leased space on Sherwood Lane. More recently it was in actual laboratory facilities when the National Marine Fisheries Service left its Auke Bay site for the new Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute at Lena Point.

“It was a tremendous move up, even if it was only temporary,” he said.

Soon, Brewster said, the station will have its own building designed for its needs housing about 20 people, including Research Station scientists, support staff, other Forest Service Researchers and the University of Alaska’s Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center.

The new lab will be accessed from Auke Lake Way, the driveway into the UAS campus from Mendenhall Loop Road. The building itself, however, will be located deep within a 7-acre, heavily forested parcel owned by the federal agency.

The development will straddle the path between the center of campus and student housing, with the lab between the path and the lake. Parking for the building will be across the path, uphill from the building.

Brewster said that only a small portion, about an acre, would be covered by the building and parking.

“We’re trying to have a minimal footprint,” he said.

“Much of it is going to remain wooded, with a lot of forested wetlands that won’t be touched,” he said.

It will also be screened from the lake by trees, minimizing the overall impact on the area, he said.

“We’re not clearing down to the lake, we’re really exercising a lot of sensitivity,” he said.

The building itself will be LEED-certified “silver” for energy efficiency, and its primary heating will come from a ground-source heat pump, similar to Juneau International Airport’s, with an electric boiler backup, Brewster said.

“The up-front cost is higher,” Brewster acknowledged. “The cheapest up front would be just installing oil-fired furnaces, but it’s that year-after-year cost we’re sensitive to,” he said.

A wood pellet boiler was also studied, but after a long and involved analysis the heat pump was chosen, he said.

Research done in the building will support forest and other land management around Southeast and the state, Brewster said.

Among projects currently being studied by research station scientists are how vegetation management options affect deer habitat, die off of Alaska yellow cedar and impacts to streams from changes in water temperature.

Brewster said he hoped the proximity to UAS will mean more collaboration with that school’s staff as well.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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