Construction Wraps on Colorado State University Mountain Campus Research Building

Posted On: March 27, 2023

The Donald and Esther Harbison Research and Education Building is a new, 6,950-square-foot building located on the Colorado State University (CSU) Mountain Campus in the Pingree Valley, approximately 24 miles northwest of Fort Collins, Colo

The new educational building pays homage to Donald and Esther Harbison, who both graduated from the Colorado Agricultural College (now CSU) in 1926. To honor them, $1.2 million was donated to the project by their daughter, Dona Hildebrand, another CSU graduate. 

Dodging the Flames 

The project was originally scheduled to break ground in October 2020 but was pushed to April 2021 due to the Cameron Peak Fire that roared through the foothills in late 2020 – the largest wildfire in Colorado history. The forest surrounding the campus was scorched on Oct. 9 and 10, but due to the fire mitigation measures and fire crews, all of the structures on the campus were protected.

Constructing the building to code and to withstand the future risk of wildfires proved to be a tedious and challenging task. The building falls under a volunteer fire department’s area, beyond the realms of Poudre Fire Authority, so the project team leaned on CSU for inspections on items such as elevator compliance (emergency monitoring), fire alarm compliance and structural fireproofing compliance

Additional design considerations were addressed about how best to protect the building. The new research and education center, along with the other buildings on campus, has a standing seam metal roof to mitigate the risk of flying embers. The use of fiber cement board siding was used in lieu of wood siding, which is the standard on campus. The lowest portions of the basement walls were left exposed and waterproofed CMU on the exterior (with no siding) to not only limit the risk of burning, but also protect the building from water infiltration during the prolonged presence of snow drifts over the winter months. The building also has a mass timber roof construction in lieu of dimensional framing and a buffer zone of landscape around the building. 

Benefitting the CSU Community

The Donald and Esther Harbison Research and Education Building is the first academic building to be added to the campus in more than 50 years. The outdoor deck aims to take advantage of adjacent ecosystems for visualizing lessons for students before entering the field. Trade partners Lamwood and Phillips Carpentry provided beautifully crafted and exposed wood elements. Before construction began, a couple of cabins on the campus were demolished. Saunders North project team members recycled the cabins’ wood as an interior branding element within the new building

Students, faculty and staff, the community, and other visitors now have the space to host and attend educational classes and seminars in a retreat setting located not too far from campus. The design elements of the building were pulled from the surrounding environment and is an ideal location for students at the Warner College of Natural Resources and other CSU students to be immersed in what they are studying. 

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