New high school at FIU’s Biscayne Bay campus to be energy efficient, saltwater resistant

Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg and Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho in front of a rendering for the new MAST@FIU center.
Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg and Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho in front of a rendering for the new MAST@FIU center. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

A planned $12.6 million high school building at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay Campus would be the first energy-efficient, saltwater-resilient building in Miami-Dade County, according to the principal.

The four-story building will be used by MAST@FIU, a public magnet high school created in 2013 with a current enrollment of 500 students. The building is scheduled to break ground in the spring and will be completed in December 2018. Classes will start one month after the building is finished.

“One of the issues we face in South Florida is sea-level rise,” MAST@FIU Principal Matthew Welker said. “We have to give thought to building differently in South Florida. I want this school to represent an example of that thinking. There are design features in the construction of the building that make it energy-efficient that also make it salt-resilient.”

The school will rise west of the Roz & Cal Kovens Conference Center and north of Bay Vista Boulevard. The building will house around 15 classrooms, eight laboratories and a boathouse to store kayaks, long boards and snorkeling equipment. MAST@FIU students will also have access to two “specialized” laboratories. A marine and environmental science lab and an engineering and robotics lab will be included among the other laboratories. The building will also feature 3D printers, wireless computer access and large frame printers, Welker said.

MAST@FIU currently resides in the Academic One building at Biscayne Bay Campus. FIU Vice Provost Steven Moll said the school uses around 25 percent of the building’s classrooms. With the new building, Moll said the university can take its classrooms back from the high school and introduce new programs to the university’s campus. MAST@FIU enrollment is expected to increase from 500 students to around 600 students, Moll said.

“When the university agreed to this partnership, one agreement we reached with them was that they would use our buildings for two years to gather the funds necessary to have a building of their own,” Moll said. “It took a little longer than anticipated to get the funds necessary for a new building. With MAST@FIU moving out of Academic One, the university plans to move the health science program from the Modesto Maidique Campus to the Biscayne Bay Campus, a program with over 800 students.”

When school is not in session during the summer, FIU professors will teach both dual-enrollment courses and university courses inside the building. The building will be populated mostly by MAST@FIU students over the summer. The number of professors needed to teach inside the building is not yet clear, Moll said.

“The university doesn’t know as of yet how many classes will be taught inside the building,” Moll said.

Although the building will be separated from the main cluster of buildings at Biscayne Bay, Welker said the intimacy of the campus has had a positive impact on MAST@FIU student’s perception of the university.

“Space is a premium at the BBC campus. It’s not a city like the Modesto Maidique Campus,” Welker said. “Having access to university resources at a campus as small as BBC is a much better way to introduce high school students to university life.”