September 24, 2007

C.U. to Begin Construction on New Sciences Building

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Correction appended. See below.
After about a decade of planning and several months of preparatory work, construction is expected to begin this week on a new physical sciences building that will adjoin Baker Laboratory and Clark Hall, which the University hopes will help facilitate more interdisciplinary collaboration and create much-needed research space.
The 197,000 gross square foot and $140 million project — designed to increase the research and instructional capabilities of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, the Department of Physics and the School of Applied and Engineering Physics — will be completed by the end of 2010, said Michael Husar, project manager in the Department of Planning, Design and Construction.
“[The new building] will allow us to have state-of-the-art laboratories necessary for research and alleviate the space crunches we all have,” said Héctor Abruña, chair of the Department of Physics.
The four-story tall building will be physically connected to the south side of Baker Laboratory and the west side of Clark Hall, which currently house the chemistry and physics departments, respectively. The School of Applied and Engineering Physics is also based in Clark Hall.
A new courtyard will be built next to Rockefeller Hall and all sidewalks to the site will be re-graded and rebuilt.
“From a sustainability perspective, we are building on an area that is already built up … so we don’t lose a lot of green area,” Hursar said.
The building will feature organic chemistry laboratories and an “extremely low vibration” laboratory two stories below ground. The latter will essentially be disconnected from the rest of the building, Abruña explained, and will help scientists explore the molecular orbital and conduct other sophisticated research.
The College of Arts and Sciences initiated the physical sciences building project about ten years ago, and the building has since become a joint venture with the College of Engineering.
“The research space in the basement will be spectacular and quite unique for a university,” College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Lepage stated in an e-mail. “I will be excited to see the science that emerges.”
Abruña said that the building will play to a strength of the three departments, which is large, collaborative projects.
“It brings people together with common goals. When you have them all in one building,great things happen because they are constantly seeing each other and solving each others’ problems.”
Before construction could begin, a series of “enabling projects” had to be completed around the site, Hursar said, including the closing of Clark Plaza, the relocation of handicap accessible exits and fire department apparatus that will be blocked during construction.
While there will be no official groundbreaking, construction crews will begin six to nine month long “utility work” this week, Hursar said. They will set up trailers and begin to relocate underground utilities that are directly under the site.
Construction over the next three years “will certainly affect the research. There are certain experiments that can’t be turned off overnight,” Abruña said. “The goal is to minimize the interruption.”
Hursar and Wilhelm said construction schedules that seek to minimize disruption to researchers remain “under discussion” with the affected departments.
Boston-based Koetter, Kim & Associates, led by Alfred H. Koetter Jr. ’75, served as the design architect for the project.
A scale model and building plans for the project are on display in the life sciences library in Clark Hall. Wilhelm also said that a project website will be coming soon.
Within the next couple of weeks, the sidewalk along East Avenue, between Rockefeller and Baker, will be closed during working hours. This will force the closure of the Rockerfeller TCAT Bus stop that serves routes 12, 30, 32 and 81.
TCAT “tentatively” plans to relocate this stop further down East Avenue to the current Statler Hall stop, according to Nancy Oltz, Service Development Manager at TCAT. She said she did not have information about a specific date for the change, but more information will be posted on and at the affected bus stops once it becomes available.
Correction appended: “C.U. to Begin Construction on New Sciences Building” incorrectly states that Prof. Héctor Abruña is the chair of the Department of Physics. Abruña is the chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. The article also incorrectly states that information about revised bus schedules will be posted on The information will actually be posted on The Sun regrets the errors.