June 7, 2007 – When the University of Georgia began planning a move of its livestock research facilities from their long time home near campus, it needed a location that would accommodate cutting edge research on sheep, cattle, and swine. The site also had to be designed in a way that would minimize environmental impact, preserve the rural character of the area, generate energy, and minimize the byproducts of livestock, including wastewater and more.
Key to the process was finding an engineering and design consultant who could offer familiarity with the University and its processes, understood facility design, and had cutting edge environmental experience to pull it all off. They found that in O'Brien & Gere, a national engineering and project delivery firm with offices in Athens, Atlanta and Savannah.
On May 29, University representatives were joined by three O'Brien & Gere officers as they broke ground on the $5 million, 237-acre farm adjacent to the University's dairy unit at the border of Clarke and Oglethorpe counties in Northeast Georgia.
University representatives included Steve Nickerson, UGA's department head for Animal and Dairy Science, University President Michael Adams, former State Sen. Brian Kemp, and Dean Scott Angle of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES). They were joined by Jim Fox, Robin Chasman and Jerry Oberholtzer from O'Brien & Gere and nearly 100 other supporters of the project.
“We are proud to help the University of Georgia create a facility that will not only aid in attracting new students to the program but will also enhance the overall educational and research experience that is critical to the University's mission,” said Jim Fox, President of Capital & Facilities Solutions at O'Brien & Gere. “The University has a strong agricultural reputation and we're pleased to assist them in enhancing that reputation.”
The Double Bridges facility will include pastured cattle and sheep, a pig rearing area, beef working and feeding areas, new classrooms and lab space. These changes will allow for continued excellence in teaching, research and Extension programming. The designs presented by O'Brien & Gere are intended to create architecture and landscaping that will preserve the rural aesthetic value of the farming environment while emphasizing a collegiate atmosphere. All structures are designed to efficiently use energy, water and other resources.
UGA officials believe that the new facility will help reveal untapped potential among Animal and Dairy Science faculty, staff and students in addition to helping agribusiness in Georgia. “It's taken a lot of effort from a lot of people, but this will allow us to have top-notch research facilities and give students up-to-date classrooms which will allow them to be more hands-on with the livestock,” Dr. Nickerson said while addressing the crowd.
There are a number of specific improvements to be made, including the replacement of a 50-year old beef facility where new technology will advance the improvement of the cattle. This will provide consumers with better beef products, a commodity that ranks 4th in Georgia. A swine unit for around 120 sows will also be developed where all offspring will be born and raised to reach market weight. UGA intends to maximize animal comfort and welfare while maintaining environmental protection. O'Brien & Gere allocated space in the design for on-site energy generation, bio-fuel production, and alternative uses for animal manures.
Double Bridges Farm will start site preparation this fall with construction set to begin in spring 2008. The plan's closing stages will be to move the livestock in and begin classes in approximately two years.