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Eco-friendly new MBA building open for business

This semester marks the completion of the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business, a massive structure located at the corner of Richards Road that is now home to the MBA program, faculty offices and classroom meeting spaces for several departments.


The bulk of construction ended in July, and tours began in early August, when the crews were putting on the finishing touches.

The new building features a rooftop garden, floating conference room, gathering hall and 2,000-square-foot lobby with specially-designed furnishings. Low-lying tables in the main corridor were constructed out of a cypress tree which was pulled out before construction began in 2008. Classrooms feature office chairs and AC adaptors on the tables.

The building was designed to be environmentally friendly, and uses recycled water, radiant heating (where heat is directly under the surface of the floor), natural ventilation and recycled materials.

Construction began on the 28,500 square foot building in January of 2008, with a groundbreaking ceremony in April of 2008. The $28 million building was designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, an architectural firm famous for designing the Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, and the Apple Store in Union Square.

“We were really fortunate to get Bohlin Cywinski Jackson as our architect,” said Nancy Thornborrow, Dean of the MBA program.

Thornborrow said she was very happy with the way the building turned out, pointing out the attention to detail and artistic vision of the design.

“Every place you stand, there is something amazing to look at,” she said, noticing the purposeful framing of a nearby Eucalyptus tree by a vertical window in the gathering hall.

Thornborrow played a major role in the project from the beginning.

“Nancy didn’t just start the project and lend it her ideas, she patiently shepherded the building through to completion, attending roughly 91 meetings related to its design, construction, and furnishing,” said Siobhan Reilly, Professor of Economics.

Thornborrow also started the MBA program with her colleagues Roger Sparks and David Roland-Holst.

“Their hard work, virtually a volunteer effort that they added to their full-time jobs in Economics, brought the MBA program into existence and moved it rapidly forward,” she said.

According to Thornborrow, the idea to have a new building had been in the works since early in the MBA program’s existence. The program began in 2001.

“In probably the fourth year of the program we could see that our classes were growing pretty big, and to grow the program we would need a new building,” Thornborrow said.

Thornborrow said the MBA program was first housed in the Vera Long Building, and then moved to Reinhardt before finally settling in its new home.

According to Thornborrow, one difficult step in planning the move was finding the right architectural firm. The program was looking for a firm with great attention to detail and who had the expertise to build a structure for students.

“It was important that the architect had experience building academic buildings,” said Thornborrow.

She also said it was important that the architect had women on their team because the MBA program at Mills is focused on women in business. Both the architectural team and the construction team, DPR Construction, included Rosa T. Sheng, a Senior Associate of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and Victoria Julian with DPR, who was second in command during construction.

Sheng flew to Switzerland to meet with the people in a stone mining quarry to make sure that the pieces for a floor-to-ceiling Vals Quartsite wall would fit together on-site.

“It is the first installation, inside-outside, on this scale in the country,” said Sheng, noting the way the pieces of stone fit together “like a puzzle.”

The construction also went very well, according to Thornborrow, who said there was a perfect safety record through the entire timeline.

“Nobody even needed a band aid,” said Thornborrow, noting that the workers kept the site clean and were respectful of students in the nearby dorms.

There are certain spaces in the building designated specifically for the 86 MBA students.

“We are trying to create a community for them,” said Thornborrow.

The landscaping is coming along slowly, and despite the promotional pictures featuring lush green green grass outside, the building is still surrounded by soil. Nonetheless, there is a tree-planting ceremony scheduled on Oct. 2 at 1:30 p.m. to replace the Eucalyptus trees that were removed before construction with 90 new eucalyptus saligna that were grown at the Botanic Garden on campus.