Part of the University of Maryland’s Chemistry Building will be demolished and rebuilt in an effort to modernize and upgrade the 66-year-old building, which has been riddled with infrastructure issues.
Wing 1 — which primarily houses laboratories and the chemistry library and is the oldest section of the building — will undergo a $104 million demolition and reconstruction, scheduled to begin in 2020 and be completed in 2023.
The new, state-funded 105,000 square-foot wing will be constructed “on the existing footprint of Wing 1” and include “research labs, collaboration space for faculty and students, advanced instructional labs and a flexible meeting space for events,” according to university spokesperson Jessica Jennings.
The wing’s update was prompted by numerous issues the section had developed over the last 20 years, according to chemistry and biochemistry department chair Janice Reutt-Robey and chemistry professor Efrain Rodriguez.
“I think if you were to try to make a list of everything that is wrong with Wing 1 of Chemistry for doing modern research, the list would be way too long,” Rodriguez said.
Reutt-Robey and Rodriguez said the building lacks working air conditioning and adequate ventilation, which interferes with the quality of experiments and research in building has had plumbing problems in the past, limited ceiling height and no proper freight elevator for delivering chemical materials, among other issues.
Rodriguez, who served on the ad hoc committee for planning the building’s construction, said the new space will enable students to better complete their work.
“Not only do you want to do high-level research, but you want to do it safely,” he said. “You want it to be space that’s also welcoming to the graduate and postdoctoral students and associates that come and do their research in the laboratories.”
For senior chemistry major Sarah Bender, the building’s outdated equipment was a major concern.
“The fume hoods are quite old, and I don’t trust them,” she said. “I do trust that they’d inspect them properly, but eventually they’re not going to be good anymore.”
Reutt-Robey said the upgrade is long overdue, and that the new facilities will better serve students like Bender during their research.
“University of Maryland students deserve to have laboratories that are of a modern standard,” she said. “We want our students to have the lab environments that are at least as good, if not better, than what they would find at … other major universities.”
In preparation for the redevelopment, existing material for research labs in Wing 1 was moved to the Edward St. John Teaching and Learning Center, where it will remain for the duration of the construction. The other wings of the building will also house additional temporary lab space and the chemistry library until the new Wing 1 is completed, according to Rodriguez. Those labs will be constructed beginning this winter, Jennings said.
Bender said the upgraded infrastructure would make her feel more comfortable during experiments. It “would make it so we don’t have to do weird workarounds, and it would make me trust the engineering controls in the lab a little bit more,” she said.
“It’ll help us have better synergy with engineering and the surrounding research space on campus,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a very long time.”