After working over weekends and holiday breaks to construct a high-tech laboratory, a local construction company and UF won a prestigious design award.

On Oct. 12, the UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s Clinical Skills Laboratory addition received the Design-Build Project of the Year Award in the educational facilities category from the Design-Build Institute of America. The lab is a large, flexible teaching space used for clinical simulation models and microscope labs, said John Haven, the executive director for the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The award recognizes projects that surpass design expectation and successfully apply design-build practices, wrote Karen Wallace, the executive director of DBIA Florida Region, in an email.

“It shows that they are one of the best design-build firms in the state,” Wallace said.

Design-build is a process where the project owner handles design and construction from the beginning to the end of the project, Wallace said.

The $4.8 million, three-story lab addition to the Veterinary Academic Building was completed in Fall 2015, Haven said.

“(The award) is just a further validation that we spent the taxpayer’s money really efficiently, and we built a great space,” Haven said.

Oelrich Construction, Inc., located in Jonesville, Florida, was selected by UF to construct the lab, said Josh Blackford, Oelrich’s project lead and operations manager.

The building was constructed over a six-month period, Blackford said. The majority of it was constructed after hours, on weekends and during holiday breaks, so noise would not disturb nearby classes.

Blackford said the lab is one of the only of its kind in the country that has a simulation lab, meaning model animals are used for students to practice their clinical techniques.

“The University of Florida’s pushing this program, and they’re one of the only programs like this in the nation,” Blackford said. “They pulled the strings they needed to pull to get this in place as quick as possible and to really be a leader in this type of education training.”

Hannah Poole, a UF senior veterinary graduate student, said the mock exam rooms, which simulate those in an actual hospital, are her favorite part of the space.

Poole took the required clinical skills course before and after the addition was built. During the year without the lab, she said students were crammed into small rooms.

“Once they were able to do that lab, I feel like the curriculum in that class has been able to run a lot smoother,” the 25-year-old said. “They’ve been able to adjust things to really help further our education and help us be more prepared for the technical and clinical aspects.”