Though administrators had planned in 2008 to demolish Kline Chemistry Laboratory, they have since altered their plans and decided to renovate the building beginning this summer.
Before the economic downturn in 2008, the University had intended to construct an Undergraduate Science Center, a “mega project” which would have housed all of Yale’s undergraduate teaching labs by expanding the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory, University President Richard Levin said. But the economic recession made the $500 million plan unfeasible, Levin said, so Yale officially opted in December for a $50 million renovation of KCL, which is set to be completed in 2014.
“[The Undergraduate Science Center] was a project that was almost as expensive as the [two new residential] colleges,” Levin said last week. “That we’ve more or less abandoned, and instead will renovate the laboratory in Kline Chemistry, which is a much smaller scale of investment then we had already planned.”
Deputy Provost for Science and Technology Tim O’Connor said the renovations of KCL will include improvements to laboratory spaces. O’Connor also cited “basic infrastructure” problems in both KCL and SCL, including a damaged roof and an antiquated air handling system.
After the projects are completed, O’Connor said Sterling Chemistry Laboratory may also undergo renovations to add more teaching space, which it currently lacks. He added that several minor renovation projects in Sterling Chemistry Laboratory are ongoing.
“It’s recognized all across the faculty that science teaching facilities need significant improvement,” O’Connor said.
Though administrators canceled plans for the Undergraduate Science Center, Levin said Yale may renovate SCL or build a new facility to add teaching space that the Undergraduate Science Center would have provided. He added that no specific plans have been discussed yet.
The original plan for the Undergraduate Science Center, designed by Freelon Group Architects, would have added two floors to SCL and demolished KCL. The addition would have housed research labs and all of Yale’s teaching laboratories, which are currently spread out across several buildings, Levin said.
Administrators hoped the Undergraduate Science Center would become a “new hub of activity” on Science Hill with its many amenities, including a dining hall, student lounge and fitness center, chemistry professor Charles Schmuttenmaer said.
Despite the downsized plans, Levin said he did not expect science recruiting to be affected.
“We’re going to have state-of-the-art teaching labs one way or the other, it doesn’t matter whether they’re in Sterling or in a separate building,” Levin said, adding the University would have them “in reasonably due time.”
Three of four students interviewed who use SCL said the lab needs of renovation and lacks study space.
“Especially with cell bio or orgo, it’s helpful to learn things with other students, and it would be a lot easier if you could do that with other students here, rather than having to go down Science Hill,” Andrew Briggs ’15 said.
Ishan Kumar ’15 said that SCL is in poor shape compared to other science buildings at Yale, which he said may hurt scientific recruiting.
“Compared to some of the other science buildings, this building isn’t something you’d want to show to prospective science students to lure them here,” Kumar said.
The Undergraduate Science Center was one of several construction projects to be affected by the recession. Others included the new residential colleges, the Yale Biology Building and renovations to Hendrie Hall.