When junior chemistry major Ai Nguyen thinks of the Chemistry Building, she said she thinks of stuffy classrooms and limited resources.
“People in engineering and physics have their own student lounge and we don’t,” Nguyen said. “And our library is not as good as other libraries.”
Other students have told Janice Reutt-Robey, chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, about an odor in the building – an odor that has likely bloomed from a lack of ventilation and infrastructure dating back to 1968, Reutt-Robey said.
But now renovations are coming, as Facilities Management is preparing a two-phase plan to replace ventilation units and reconstruct one wing of the building.
Gov. Larry Hogan approved $277,000 for Fiscal 2019 to rebuild Wing 1 of the Chemistry Building, said Bill Olen, interim director of Planning and Construction. The money will be used to start the design of the wing, where construction will not take place before 2020, Olen said.
The construction project is one of several aimed to modernize the campus in recent years. The Edward St. John Teaching and Learning Center was slated for completion in late December 2016. Renovations to Cole Field House are underway, and the project is expected to be completed by late 2018.
The Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, is expected to open in late 2018, The Diamondback reported in May 2016.
This university has been the site of construction in recent years in an effort to modernize a historical campus. The Chemistry Building has been added to the list of projects.
Students last semester expressed concerns that outdated conditions in STEM buildings were inhibiting their learning environment.
“The idea is to make the building much more inviting and make it a place where students really want to be,” Reutt-Robey said.
There are a number of rooms in Wing 1 that cannot serve class needs without major renovations, Reutt-Robey said. A well-functioning ventilation system is required to keep chemical fumes from escaping the fume hood during lab experiments, she added.
“The campus really strives hard to be a greener campus and reduce energy consumption,” Reutt-Robey said. “Getting better fume hood management will be a huge step toward that goal.”
The Department of Operations and Maintenance plans to replace the HVAC system in Wing 2 of the building later this year in order to make it a functional place for students and professors to inhabit while Wing 1 is being reconstructed, Olen said.
“The ventilation units in the roof level of Wing 2 of Chemistry are beyond their lifespan,” Olen said.
The Facilities Council approved design money on Jan. 19 for the renovation of Wing 2. The replacement of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning units is estimated to cost $2.5 million, said Olen.
Reutt-Robey hoped that replacement work would take place during the summer when the labs in Wing 2 are not being used. However, the construction team will not be ready to start replacing the systems until later this year, Olen said.
“The hope was that we would start this summer, but I don’t think we’re going to get there,” said Olen.
The chemistry department plans to start moving lab-involved curricula to Wing 2 and the Edward St. John Teaching and Learning Center while Wing 1 is being reconstructed, Reutt-Robey said. A wing of the Edward St. John Center is dedicated to general chemistry labs, and classes are expected to take place there in fall 2017.
“This will finally allow us to take these labs of this older wing where the ventilation fume hoods are sub-par and put it in this new place,” Reutt-Robey said.