Babcock Hall construction project to focus on dairy innovation
Changes are coming to the Babcock Hall building on the UW-Madison campus.
The renovation to the dairy plant and the addition to the Center for Dairy Research will be a $72.6 million dollar project.
Currently, construction work is ongoing for the three story addition to the Center for Dairy Research.
Dr. John Lucey, the Center for Dairy Research Director, says the building is long overdue for an upgrade.
“This is the first major expansion of the dairy facility for either the center or the dairy plant in 70 years,” said Lucey. “Lots of people are really waiting for it and really excited for it as well.”
The State Building Commission approved the final funding plan for the Center for Dairy Research addition and renovation of the Dairy Plant.
The approval included a $25.7 million budget increase and was authorized in late February.
The original project was slated to cost about $46.9 million when the project budget was approved in April 2018.
Part of the Center for Dairy Research addition will include a new auditorium for training.
Lucey says he’s most excited about the nine cheese ripening caves which will help Wisconsin compete in the specialty cheese sector.
“There won’t be a facility like this outside of France,” Lucey said. “People will say ‘How are we going to be the leaders in specialty cheese?’ We need to have the facilities here.”
Lucey said another wing of equipment will be fermenters to develop Greek and regular yogurts.
As for the Babcock Dairy plant renovation, Kate VandenBosch, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, says it’s a complicated project.
“It is renovation of an old space and its construction of new and they have to fit together,” VandenBosch said. “The nature of what goes on here is not just the usual utilities but we also have to find ways to bring milk in and to clean the process piping. There’s also a lot of electronic controls.”
Because of construction, the Babcock Dairy ice cream is being produced offsite. VandenBosch says the observation gallery will continue to be a part of Babcock Dairy once the renovation is complete.
“It’s important both on campus and off campus and we expect to be here for a really long time,” she added.
Both VandenBosch and Lucey believe a sizeable investment like this one is important to the dairy industry.
“I think it’s really important that we innovate to create new products because that will give more return for the milk and then those returns and that value will be passed back to the farmers,” said Lucey.
VandenBosch says the building will be here for the long haul.
“The fact that we invested in this building means that it’s a really significant partnership between the university and the industry and the state,” said VandenBosch.
The project is expected to take two years to complete.