A look at Stellenbosch’s new R1 billion research facility

Stellenbosch University has officially commenced construction on its new state-of-the-art Biomedical Research Institute (BMRI).

The BMRI, which is based at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), will be completed in 2022 at an estimated cost of R1 billion.

The institute’s main aims will be to investigate diseases that have the greatest impact on communities in South Africa and the rest of Africa, and to translate its discoveries into improving the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of illnesses such as TB, HIV, diabetes, heart disease and neurological disorders, among others.

The new BMRI will provide additional space and be on par with the most advanced and sophisticated biomedical research facilities in the world, the university said.

It will also allow for the immediate expansion of current research activities, as well as strengthen research and teaching capacity in fields such as bioinformatics, genomics, anatomy, neurobiology, advanced surgical sciences, biobanking, etc.

Apart from a range of research laboratories, the new facility will host:

  • A Bioinformatics Hub;
  • Electron microscopy laboratories;
  • Proteomics and FACS laboratories;
  • Morphology Museum;
  • Biorepository;
  • Sunskill Laboratory;
  • Clinical research unit; and
  • Conference facilities.

Unique features

According to Stellenbosch University, the new institute has a number of unique features.

A smart lighting system will detect areas where natural light is strongest and adjust lighting accordingly, thus drawing less electricity from the grid.

The building will also tie into the campus’s greywater masterplan, which allows for rainwater harvesting and the use of borehole water.

In addition, all toilets will be flushed with non-potable water.

Other features include:

  • A secure bicycle storage area with adjacent shower facilities will be located in the basement to encourage staff and students to cycle to work.
  • Workstations and laboratory benches will be inviting and inspiring, with outdoor views and access to fresh air and natural lighting where possible.
  • A system of negative air pressure will keep hazardous fumes or airborne toxins from flowing out of laboratories and into adjacent areas.
  • A powerful ventilation and filtration plant will continuously draw air out of laboratories and to the top of the building, where it will be filtered and released.

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A look at Stellenbosch’s new R1 billion research facility