Plans for a new state-of-the art Biological Sciences Building took another step forward Thursday as the Board of Regents approved a schematic design.

The $261 million project will bring together the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, now housed in Kraus Hall and the Ruthven Museums Building.

The museums of Anthropology, Natural History, Paleontology and Zoology also will move into the new space.

“Our goal is to provide a first-rate research and teaching space that will enable our current faculty to do their best work, and to recruit and retain the nation’s top faculty and students,” said Andrew Martin, dean of LSA.

An architect’s drawing of the new Biological Sciences Building. (Drawing by SmithGroupJJR and Ennead Architects )

The 300,000-square-foot Biological Sciences Building will house the research laboratories, associated support functions, offices and classrooms of the two departments.

Laboratories within the building will be constructed in an open plan to allow for greater collaboration, increased flexibility and better space utilization. The new three-section building will be connected by two small glass atria. One atrium will serve as the lobby for the new Museum of Natural History. The design also will bring natural light into both office and lab spaces.

“The research problems being addressed now require groups of people with diverse backgrounds, talents and knowledge. The design provides multiple formal and informal interaction spaces throughout the building,” said Myron Campbell, associate dean for natural sciences. “The interaction spaces will facilitate groups, both within a single lab and across labs, to come together and discuss and work on problems.”

Visitors to the Museum of Natural History will be able to see and interact with exhibits representing university discoveries as well as learn about current and ongoing research efforts. Classrooms will allow students to interact with actual specimens and artifacts in the expansive museum collections, and will enable faculty to use the latest ideas in teaching.

“We are excited about the new opportunities this building offers to U-M students and faculty,” said Amy Harris, director of the Museum of Natural History. “Public programs and exhibits for all visitors will emphasize the visual and visceral ways we learn in museums. They will cultivate wonder, immerse and transport visitors, and engage them in participatory programs.”

The building will sit adjacent to the Life Sciences Institute where North Hall and the Museums Annex currently exist. Those buildings will be demolished. The new building also will have a connection to LSI to increase utilization of its dock, to allow for sharing of research spaces and equipment and to increase collaboration between LSA and LSI researchers.

In October 2013, regents approved a plan to relocate the Army, Naval and Air Force Officer Education programs from North Hall to the Chemistry Building and Ruthven.

Following the relocation of the departments into the new biology building — expected in 2019 — the university anticipates renovating Kraus for the School of Kinesiology and expansion space for the School of Information.

Once Kinesiology has been relocated to Kraus, the officer education programs will move into the current Kinesiology building with some additional space provided in the Central Campus Recreation Building.

Over the next several years, as this plan moves forward, the university will evaluate the future use of Ruthven based on university needs.

University officials expect the BSB project to take five years to complete construction and relocation of all departments.

Funding will be provided from LSA and Office of the Provost resources.  The architectural firm of SmithGroupJJR and Ennead Architects will design the project, which is expected to create up to 256 on-site construction jobs.