The Békésy Laboratory of Neurobiology was founded in 1966 as the Laboratory of Sensory Sciences when the late Nobel Laureate Georg von Békésy was persuaded to leave Harvard University and take an appointment as Research Professor at UH Mānoa. The present building was designed and built under Dr. von Békésy’s supervision to provide facilities for research in basic neurobiology and psychophysics.
The main building rests on a cement slab separated and vibrationally-isolated from that on which the heavy equipment of the machine shop and the air conditioning rests. One inner lab is provided with its own vibrationally-isolated slab to give extra isolation. The slabs are poured over a copper-mesh ground-grid which in turn is connected to heavy-gauge copper grounding wires from each of the ground-floor research laboratories, providing them with isolation from electrical interference needed for the most sensitive electrophysiological measurements.Lighting in the labs is provided by incandescent rather than fluorescent fixtures, again to reduce electrical interference. Further vibration-proofing and electrical shielding are provided by the rebar and concrete filling of the cinder blocks of which both inner and outer walls are constructed. An annex provides additional laboratory space and general laboratory facilities (laminar-flow hoods, deionized water, an autoclave, -80 °C freezers and a cold room).
The building is located at 1993 East-West Road at the mauka (mountain side) end of the UH Mānoa campus. The building has 19,500 square feet of space, including 9,600 square feet of laboratory and office space as well as a large machine/carpentry shop, a smaller electronics shop, library, and other shared space.
As of December 2012, the building housed the research programs of six neuroscientists (Andres, Castelfranco, Christie, Couvillon, Hartline, and Lenz), the main administrative offices of PBRC (2,000 square feet), and most of the Computer Network Support Facility core resource. An apiary is located on the eastern side of the Békésy/PBRC Building to supply honeybees for the Couvillon laboratory’s research. A 30 kW (154-panel) photovoltaic system was installed on the building’s roof in 2011, one of the first buildings on the UH Mānoa campus to have such a system installed, and helping contribute to the campus’ goal of sustainability.