STEM education in Hudson County got a big boost Tuesday with the ribbon-cutting to open a $25.9 million, 70,070-square-foot building on the Jersey City campus of Hudson County Community College.
The new STEM facility consolidates and centralizes the college’s STEM programs into one location serving 700 to 750 students. It includes 14 general classrooms; 10 science labs for the study of microbiology, genetics and engineering; an open lobby design; an outdoor collaborative space; a multipurpose room; and offices for administrative officials, the school said.
The building also includes state-of-the-art equipment, including autoclaves, incubators, ionizers, explosion-proof refrigerators and vacuum ovens, which were built into the labs.
Hudson County Community College President Glen Gabert said he feels the building will have a lasting impact in the county and the state.
“STEM studies offer the greatest opportunities for well-paying, long-lasting careers and economic growth,” Gabert said.
“We wanted a building that reflects our commitment to STEM and our students. One that is comfortable, secure, learning-focused, has the newest and best technologies and encourages the kind of collaboration that leads to innovations that can improve life in the future.”
The building is located at 263 Academy St. near Journal Square, so it will have easy access to mass transit. The building was designed by RSC Architects, which is based in Hackensack.
Kenneth Mihalik, project manager for RSC Architects, said the firm worked closely with faculty to make it sure it had all the features that were needed.
“We had several meetings with each department to ascertain what they’d like from a new facility,” Mihalik said. “Each department stressed the need for larger spaces to fit an increasing roster of students and offer even more learning activities and opportunities than before.”
Mihalik said RSC designed classrooms and labs of various sizes. The firm created an exterior of the building made of curved glass and a curved roof to make it stand out from the traditional box-shaped buildings in the area.
The most challenging aspect of the design, he said, was fitting a large structure into a small urban space.
“Building a large facility in the middle of an urban center like Jersey City is always tricky because of complex building code requirements,” Mihalik said. “We had to get creative with the way we laid out the floor plan to maximize the space and maintain the high quality of the facility’s learning spaces.”
Natural light also was a key, Mihalik said.
Mihalik said RSC paid attention to a recent U.S. Department of Education study that found students in classrooms with natural light have a 20 percent better learning rate in math and a 26 percent improved rate in reading.
RSC paid careful attention to these statistics, creating an open floor plan to maximize natural lighting for STEM students, Mihalik said. RSC intentionally designed the rear wall of the building to allow for the construction of a courtyard — creating a tranquil setting amidst an urban landscape, he said.
Hudson County Community College is a public, comprehensive urban community college with nearly 10,000 students from Hudson County, one of the most densely populated and ethnically diverse areas in the United States.
The STEM Division of Hudson County Community College offers Associate in Science degree programs that prepare students to transfer to four-year institutions. Additionally, there are Associate in Applied Science and certificate programs that ready students for careers immediately after graduation.